"I need some serious coffee for this," I whispered to Dena as the presenter clicked through slide after slide that reviewed the complexities and details of the Next Generation Science Standards.
"Most of us have already seen this information a fair amount," she said. "Don't try to take everything in."
Last week, I went along with our district's science coordinator to a state consortium meeting. At the beginning of the meeting, they asked us to fill out a one-question questionnaire. I'm including the screenshot of the responses. You can be entertained by my response.
The first half of the day was an overview of the NGSS Science Standards, but it was a review of information for almost everyone in the room except for me. They knew the acronyms. They knew the components. They knew the layers and terms and many of them even knew the rationale. For most people in the room, the learning curve was a pleasant slope, sort of like a green circle in skiing terms.
I was on a double black diamond.
By the end of the morning, my head hurt--the result of a swollen brain. During the lunch break, I bought some coffee, trail mix and sour patch kids--my go-to sustenance when the work requires serious thinking. (It's good serious thinking isn't always required or I'd have to modify that intake, I suppose!)
The afternoon was hard too, although a less lecture-oriented more collaborative sort of hard, and I was happy to have my thinking food. I was also happy to share my sour patch kids since I felt like I was contributing something to the work--I'm not sure my scientific thinking was up to par.
I share this experience because it was a reminder to me of how hard it is to be in a room and feel like the least competent person there. How hard it is to have to learn new stuff fast. How hard it is to not have the background information to assemble new learning and contribute meaningfully to a project-oriented task. It's really hard. Really, really hard.
How often do we ask our striving learners to be in this position of muddledness? For me, I had the wherewithal to rub my temples and use self-talk through it. I had the courage to whisper clarifying questions to Dena when I needed to. And I had the car and the money to pick up some protein, chocolate, and sugar for the afternoon. What wherewithal do learners have other than to be compliant and try to look busy?