Written by Annabelle Parr

From the moment we are born, we begin to learn. Our brain soaks up as much information as it possibly can about our environment, and how to best succeed in the world around us. During our first few years we learn vital life skills such as walking and talking. When we enter preschool we practice playing and interacting with others, and we learn how to adjust to a more structured environment. Once we enter elementary school we establish more concrete academic objectives like learning how to read and write, and how to add and subtract. In middle school and high school we move beyond the basics and into more complex realms of thinking, with a more challenging workload. And, by the time we enter university we are expected to specialize in a particular area relevant to our future career and attain a sense of mastery in this chosen field.

Regardless of the grade or age, school is devoted to learning. It’s meant to challenge us more each year — and perhaps most importantly, it’s supposed to teach us how to learn.

As a third year university student, I’ve spent the past seventeen years of my life in school, mastering the skills to succeed in an academic atmosphere. At this point, school is in many ways my comfort zone. After spending such a long time in this environment, I have a firm grasp on what is required of me. I know that school demands hard work, but I have enough experience to have achieved a sense of confidence in my capabilities.

However, this semester I’ve been pushed far out of my comfort zone. My university’s philosophy is “learn by doing”. This means that as undergrads at Cal Poly, we receive experience applying our knowledge to real life situations. This philosophy, while certainly valuable, is a challenge. It completely changes the school dynamic by taking students out of the classroom and asking them to apply their learned-knowledge in a true setting.

Learning by doing requires flexibility, adaptability and being ready to accept the possibility that a “right answer” may not exist when applying learning to real life. It means that there is a significant amount of responsibility involved, and a far greater potential — if not a guarantee — of failure at some point or in some capacity.

This new approach to schoolwork has been a challenge that I initially resented. But, what I’m discovering as this term progresses is that this new challenge is both more frustrating and more rewarding. While I’m being pushed to work harder and differently, my successes are far more satisfying. Recognizing areas that need improvement forces me to workharder. I’ve abandoned complacency and am watching myself grow. And the result is that I’m a stronger student, a better learner, and a more developed individual.

The most valuable lesson that I’ve learned from school is how to learn. The most important thing that I will take away from my years of education is that there is value in being challenged. While it’s important to achieve a sense of mastery in our lives, it’s also important to continue to push ourselves. Being forced out of our comfort zones results inlearning far more than sticking only to what we know. Overcoming challenges builds confidence, allows us to expand our skills and our knowledge, and ultimately makes us stronger — even if at first it seems to break us down.

Four Pieces of Uncommon Sense to Carry On Learning:

  1. Have the wisdom to know your strengths and the courage to own your weaknesses.
  2. Challenge yourself in some way at least once a week, whether it’s personally or professionally.
  3. Set realistic and unrealistic goals for yourself, note them, and revisit them often taking notice of the actions made to achieve them.
  4. Don’t fear failure; failure leads to growth. Fear stagnation.

Read this before? Originally appeared on the Bulldog Drummond Uncommon Blog.

Annabelle Parr is a junior at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. She is a Psychology major with a passion for writing and learning about people. Connect with Annabelle via email at annabelle.parr@yahoo.com. Find her personal blog at https://slothisismylife.wordpress.com.

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