I'm taking a class on experiential learning, and last week we were supposed to muse about how we learn and what makes us learn best. This was tough for me for the nerdiest, most disappointing reason. I'm just a good student. It's not really surprising, because I'm a PhD student and I think we all have a reputation for being especially good students (why else would we choose more academia?). But I think I'm acquiring a reputation as an especially studenty student. Lana and I have started joking about me as somebody that just does everything to be a good student, and a student of everything. Like I carefully plan my lunches because I'm a good student. I always ask Lana to coffee because I'm a good student. I raise my hand at meetings where we can just start talking because I"m a good student...When I write about it, it sounds less funny but I promise it makes nervous undergrads laugh and that's a representative enough sampling for me. Anyway, I've realized that I might have had an especially early start as a student. I documented some of my toddler antics and I wonder if other grad students had similar stories.
Honestly, I think that the most important part of my learning style is that I just didn’t know when to quit. I was an obnoxious learner as a toddler and kept it up so long that I didn’t really have a choice but to keep going. Just before I was old enough to start kindergarten I decided on my own that I needed to be studious and learn the important things, like addition and subtraction, all the flags of the world, and all of the origins of the letters of the alphabet. Essentially, I just picked things out of Dictionaries and Encyclopedias and decided I needed to copy them all down. You would think that my parents had in some way pushed me to do that. Except, they were actually just annoyed that I was always walking off with the house’s reference books. I just thought I was an important little scribe, doing important things. I also remember as a four year old asking my parents what they remembered about themselves when they were four. My parents told me that they didn’t really remember anything before they were five. I was terrified to think that someday I wouldn’t remember what was currently more than my entire life, so I set to periodically remembering “important” memories of my early childhood. I still remember some of them, because it’s become instinctive for those memories to percolate up in my mind during quiet times or related events. Mostly I remember different times fell, some fantasy realities I dreamed up and decided were real (later debunked), a couple of moments I was especially delighted with the world, and a good number of times that I would have been thinking “you’ve got to be efing kidding me” had I known the words. I loved remembering. I loved learning. I loved working. I wasn't afraid of a big task (26 letters is a lot for a four year old!). And that's pretty much why I think I ended up in grad school.