The comfort of uncomfortable learning

The elevator was filled with chatter. A gaggle of students had just finished lecture and were fired up – commenting on and complaining about the class….a class that I, for one, was absolutely loving.

I listened, and asked a few what they were unhappy with, eager to understand their frustration.

In many ways, my excitement seemed predictable – the class was full of material I already fully believed in and understood, taught in a way that resonated with me – stories, images, metaphors, etc. It was wonderful, it was inspiring… and it was…comfortable. Perhaps, too comfortable for meaningful change to take place.

When the semester finished I made my way to the Professor’s office, eager to understand the dynamics of the class and the learning journey he created.

He described the predictable learning journey of the majority of the students, from skeptical or even resistant to, by the end, inspired and on-board.

He made it clear he wasn’t trying to change anyone’s mind or convince his learners to adopt his point of view. This was not his tactic.

He worked to deeply understand his students, acknowledge their uncomfortable-ness and worked smarter, not harder, to bring them into the story of the narrative he was telling.

I marveled at his ability and empathy to both understand his learners and guide positive change.

I reflected on other learning experiences that felt uncomfortable and why, several months later, the learning set in more profoundly than ever.

How often do we purposefully sign up for learning experiences that feel outside our comfort zone, and stick with them? And, how often do we utilize and understand the experience of our fellow learners to help make sense of and process our experience?

We can’t and shouldn’t assume that our learning experience is anything other than deeply personal, but that doesn’t mean it should always be comfortable.

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