What Kind of Shoes?

Photo by Kaje, via Flickr

As a learner, what shoes do you wear?

I’m asking this question because I recently had a conversation with a colleague that caused me to ask it of myself.

The conversation began with my explaining that I would be taking advantage of an upcoming opportunity to attend another colleague’s presentation on differentiated math education.

The colleague I was talking to looked confused. “Why would you be going to that?” he asked. “You’re not a math teacher.”

Taken off guard, I went for the simplest answer. “Because I’m the mother of an elementary school student,” I said. (Who happens to be a little math head, although I didn’t mention that.)

On further reflection, I realized that my answer had been incomplete. Because the truth was that I would have been interested in the presentation independently of the subject matter, because the presenter is a friend and I’m curious about what interests him. I missed an earlier opportunity to hear him give this particular presentation, and I was happy for the chance to support him by catching it the second time around.

Taking this line of thinking even further, there would have been a good chance that I would have given up some of my professional day off to attend a presentation by a colleague no matter WHO was giving it, or WHAT the subject matter was, because I’ve been thinking for several years about the pros and cons of different styles of presenting/ tummling/ communicating, and am in fact gearing up to pull together a proposal to present at NACAC in 2011, so a little more grist for that mill is always welcome.

All of which has led me to the realization that, as a learner, I think I don the mental equivalent of hiking boots. Strong, flexible, amphibious, all-terrain hiking boots. Well broken-in.

I read somewhere that most people’s musical tastes are relatively fixed by the time they’re 30 years old, and I thought to myself then, “Not me.”

I was born curious, and I am determined to stay that way. My orientation towards new information is the orientation of a hiker faced with a new trail… let’s get out there and explore!

Do I sometimes turn back? Sure. Have I stumbled? Absolutely. But good luck to you if you think you’re going to be able to figure out in advance which trails will lure me. Much of the time, I don’t even know.

How about you? Do you wear the mental equivalent of shoes designed for jumping? For quick turns? For long distance running? For cross-training? Do you follow a map, depend on GPS, feel your way, look for the creeks, whack your way through with a machete, follow in someone else’s footsteps?

I wonder what my students would say. And I’m curious about you, too. As a learner, what kind of shoes do you wear? How do you navigate your way through the world?

(The presentation was really cool, by the way…
see Kevin Merges‘ Prezi here, if you’re curious.
And a hat tip to the thought-provoking
and ever-engaging Heather Gold.)

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Posted on November 10, 2010, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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