Beginners mind – learning a new skill

Slice of Life logoI proclaimed a year or so ago that I was now in “refirement”. A place were I have left one career and am now beginning a new. (It’s still January right – I can still write about new beginnings, goals and starting a new – correct?)

Well, I loved this idea that I was now free to start again, to learn new things. I walked, talked, wrote and thought about what was it I really wanted to do. I thought back to when I was young and just tumbled my way into teaching. Yes, I loved teaching and would do it all over again but what was also lurking behind that I let hide. What did I keep hidden because there just wasn’t time or energy?

There are three things that jumped out at me – gardening, writing and drawing. All three of these things I do ok.  Well, to be honest I am not ready to show anyone anything I draw but that is another story.  This story is what I am now facing as I try to bring these skills beyond just ok.

In teaching I had grown comfortable in what I needed to do. I was always learning but I knew how to do that learning – who to read, where to look, and importantly I could spot my errors. At the end of a day I could look easily over what didn’t work and find ways to change that. Not that every changed worked but I understood the process to make changes in my teaching.

Now as I begin as a beginner in these new areas it is uncomfortable. It is hard to know who do I ask for help, when something doesn’t go right I don’t know how to adjust it.

I grew up without the internet so there are days when I go to research something I am overwhelmed at the number of google hits. My old library research may have given me 6 to 10 books – many that were not in my library system. I would come home with one or two. Maybe not the best but it was a built in focus. I learned from what I had in front of me.

Today while looking at blogs about drawing I ran into 168,000,000 hits. I narrowed my search to be more specific – drawing plants -that helped it brought me to 6,970,000. So I tried again narrowed even more to drawing tulips. Ah yes, now we are have only 3,090,000 places to look.

Well. you can see I am overwhelmed with the amount of information I can now take in by typing a few words. I don’t know enough in this field to make adjustments to my work. Out of all those hits I don’t know the leaders in the field to turn to.

Who are the gardening guru’s or the scientific drawing guys/gals to look at?  Which cartoonist should I follow?  Who do I show my work to to ask for help?

I know with time I will work it all out but it is scary, it feels uncomfortable to not know, to ask so many questions and to feel like I should know the answers but don’t. I am sure they are easy if I only knew them.

I have found a friend who is now my go to guy for gardens – I know I can e-mail him any question and he will answer or send me in the right direction. I don’t need to feel worried – he gets it.

My writing I have -you- this huge on line community plus a few other more locally to help me.  Although it is still hard to share work – to feel comfortable stepping out there. There are always to many questions.

Drawing well that is another story – I am still a seeker who is hiding behind my colored pencils.  Because I am old I know I will get there – I will find someone but I don’t like the feeling of not knowing, of having to ask so many questions. It is hard to be a beginner at any age.

So all that said – I now think to those students of mine, or the new teachers that were down the hall who were in beginners mind. I reminder now how that feels. The fear of asking questions, to many questions. The struggle of knowing the lesson was not right but not knowing how to adjust it or who to even ask about adjusting it.  The student not getting the math lesson but to afraid to ask yet one more time to have it explained.

So do you remembers beginners mind?  What new teacher or what students need you as a guide to answer the 1,000 questions that will help them move along toward really knowing and feeling confident in their work?

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About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, help in schools and write. Life is good!
This entry was posted in behavior, Reflection. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Beginners mind – learning a new skill

  1. arjeha says:

    This is a great journey on which you are embarking. Sounds like you have taken the first step. Beginning something new can be daunting as well as rewarding. I look forward to reading about your journeys and hopefully seeing some of your results. When is your first gallery showing?

  2. jmjd says:

    There is nothing like new learning. I love your choice of the word “refirement”. It captures what you are attempting beautifully. Good luck!

  3. Lisa Keeler says:

    I love the term “refirement.” Good luck pursuing your passions. They all sound wonderful.

  4. vgpratt says:

    You are at such an interesting time in your life! Yes– “beginner’s mind” is a scary time (I don’t enjoy the uncomfortable feeling of “not knowing, either), but in a ways it’s also like young love– you don’t know what to expect and everything you experience is new and wonderous. The best part is– you can and will make mistakes, but that’s okay! It is all part of the learning! I’m sure that you won’t have any harsh critics, unless you are too tough on yourself! Have fun, and good luck! 🙂

  5. gardening, drawing and writing. Those could be my 3 favorite things to do if you throw a bit of eating in there somewhere. I used to draw quite a bit, before teaching ft and a half. It will come with looking – (beyond seeing) and giving yourself time to enjoy it and be free as well as studied. As for gardening – you know the plants will instruct you!
    Wouldn’t it be fun to think about how to mix the three? I think I will draw a plant from my garden and write an ode to it?
    Have fun in your learning journey.

  6. Dana Murphy says:

    Joanne, you’re right! That Ira Glass video was made for you today! You’re doing great – you have a vision, a will. You’re just in the beginning stage. Keep at it! I look forward to the day I open one of your Slices and see a hand-drawn tulip staring back at me!

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