Receptivity…in learning

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According to my quick Google search; the word receptivity is actually a noun.  Basically, receptivity is having the quality of being receptive.  If you are receptive to learning, you are willing or inclined to receive suggestions, new ideas, or new knowledge favorably. Receptivity as I define it is simply; wanting to learn. I have had many times in my life where I was more receptive to learning than others. I have always been more receptive to learning than not over the length of my lifetime. Some subjects I was more inclined to learn than others. Honestly, I just don’t think I will ever be very receptive to learning algebra.  I have always been receptive to learning anything artistic. It’s been a long time since I studied psychology and human development but I seem to remember life stages where learning is easier.  It is very easy to see these stages in a child as they learn to crawl, walk and run.  It is also easy to agree that school aged children generally have a voracious appetite to learn.
I can easily see in my own past the times of great receptivity to learning.  When I gave birth to Holly; I underwent a great desire to learn.  Of course, I read “What to Expect when you’re expecting” cover to cover.  Marty and I took Lamaze classes for six weeks, watching videos and reading books.  This major life change released a great desire to learn.  I finally felt passionate about my direction in life and felt God released a sense of purpose.  Once I realized that being a nurse was exactly what I wanted to be; I was consumed with that one goal.  I quickly signed up for a nursing assistant course, putting my all into everything I did.  This passion sustained me through the ups and downs of learning.  I did graduate with an associate degree in nursing.
The goal to be a nurse was a great one but in hindsight, the obsession to be the best in my nursing class almost cost me my marriage.  I felt the need to get perfect grades consume all my time and energy.  Luckily, I have a wonderful husband that pulled me back from the trap of perfectionism and he helped me to see with perspective that great grades did not define who I was. It took me awhile to see that all nurses were equal in comparison once they had the RN behind their name and what truly mattered was experience. A degree is a place to start and once you have the piece of paper, no one cares if you were 1st in the class or last.  As my youngest daughter says, “C’s get degrees!”  and I caution her to remember that you have to get into the particular “school” of learning at college first. But I do tell her that her grades are not as important to me as her learning the subject.  I took many classes over the years where I got an A and now I couldn’t tell you what I learned.  I don’t think grades really evaluate actual learning very well but that is for a different blog entry.
There is nothing quite like a financial need to encourage one to learn. As I started the photography studio; the need to learn quickly was really prompted by a need to pay the bills. I didn’t want to be a failure as a business owner. I spent a lot of my time learning by trial and error. My ability to learn Photoshop editing was much better than my ability to learn how to set my camera’s manual settings. I shot my images in camera RAW and that gave me the ability to manipulate the images. I often made exposure mistakes but I would fix them later in Photoshop. After a few years (yes, years!) of being sloppy with my exposure settings; I dedicated myself to really learning the triad of exposure, ISO, shutter speed and aperture. Don’t ask me to explain it all but I finally understand how to set them properly. After making many mistakes in printing and framing; I learned how to frame with precision. The process of selling was always a challenge for me. I understood and loved marketing but actually closing the deal during a sales meeting was difficult. My husband was a wonderful mentor to me during this time in my life because he is so knowledgeable about sales and business. We would talk everyday about what I did and he would advise me on how to improve. He was my biggest supporter and biggest critic. But the trusted advice of someone who loved me unconditionally was instrumental in being successful at business.
As I head into the mid-life years; my receptivity towards learning is based upon my desire to reach for self-actualization. I have always been intrigued by self-actualization and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs. I won’t digress into that topic now as I could fill a whole blog series on it. But boredom is definitely part of my longing for learning now. As a flight attendant, I sit in airports and hotels for hours at a time. I battle an addiction to Facebook and need to be distracted from spending endless hours on it. I want my time spent to have purpose and I need my mind stimulated. I desire to leave a lasting impact on the world I live in and make it a better place.In closing, receptivity towards learning is so important. I have had moments in my life where I was not receptive to learning. The years of parenting small children and running them to activities takes a toll. When those lower needs for sleep, safety and security are barely being met it is easy to sweep the quest for knowledge aside. As any junior high teacher can attest, learning does take Receptivity!

The Three R’s of real learning…

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I have always been someone that loves to learn.  I read everything in front of me.  As a child, I read voraciously, consuming a book or more a day.  My mother would take us girls to the library often and I would come away with a bag of books every time.  The excitement of a new bag of books with their beautifully illustrated covers and the smell of the library are such fond memories.  I went to so many places in my mind as I read books.  I am a sucker for a good romance, a bit of intrigue and anything with a good story.  I have gone to school a few different times in my life.  I started college the fall immediately after high school graduation.  I went to University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse for one semester.  I did enjoy the experience but honestly my heart was back home as I was in love at the time and I struggled being away from Marty for more than a few days.  I left UW-Lacrosse at semester break and then transferred to University of Wisconsin-Baraboo, Sauk County.  It is really hard to study and do well in school if there is no passion, goal or direction.  I went for a bit but dropped out; I was planning our wedding and consumed with those details at that time.  I had no desire to learn and I had no plan to go back.  I got married to Marty that February and worked at the grocery store as a cashier.  The following summer we got pregnant with Holly and married life and parenting were my plan at the time.  We had Holly in April of 1989 and it was at that pivotal point in my life, I realized I wanted to be a nurse. The care I received during labor & delivery opened my eyes to the possibilities of that career.

That summer I followed through with my plan and went to Southwest Technical College for a certification in nursing assistant.  I loved the class and I had three really great teachers that were thorough in their instruction.  I graduated with my certificate in Nursing Assistant and got a job at Sauk Prairie Memorial Hospital. The hospital was such a great employer. They had a tuition reimbursement program that allowed me to go to school; work 20 hours per pay period.  They would pay me a stipend for full time work and for all of my tuition costs, including books if I committed to working four years after graduating. I ended up working for them for 15 years total; I believe I was probably a good return on their investment!  I loved my nursing studies; getting really good grades and graduating #2 in my class with high academic honors.  I was the last class to write the paper test for my licensure; it took 2 days with sessions in the morning and afternoon.  I passed the test the first time and became a RN.  I worked in our ICU department as a CNA, a student nurse and as a telementry technician.  Once I was a RN; I worked the Medical/Surgical floor for a full year.  I then received a job to work full time in the Labor & Delivery unit; I also taught breastfeeding classes; childbirth classes.  I floated to the emergency room and Med/Surg floors when the OB department was closed.

When I turned 30, I was starting to get bored a bit and went back to school for a year at University of Wisconsin-Richland.  I took a bunch of classes to get my Bachelors; mostly prerequisite general study courses.  I loved studying the humanities; taking a Western Civilizations class, Art History and English Comp.  I wanted to go and get my bachelors in Community Health Education but after the year of school on top of work challenges, I gave up.  I was wanting more time at home with the girls and freedom to right my own schedule more.  I worked 7 years doing home care with special needs children, in their homes.  It was a nice chapter of life because I was given allot more control over my time and schedule.  I was very devoted to my faith walk at this time in my life as well and I studied to get my license & ordination in ministry.  I found a lady that had a group that met in her home every Friday night for a full year.  We studied together and prayed together in a new testament way of mentoring & training.  I read allot about church history; learned the scriptures; studied church leadership and organization.  It was at this point in my life I dreamed one night of owning a photography studio.  I told my husband about the dream many numerous times and after about 6 months, he told me to just do it!  He got tired of hearing about it and said, “If you fail, you fail; but maybe you will succeed!” and so I jumped into having a photography studio.  I worked as a RN for about a year, buying my equipment; camera, lights and a few props.

I opened a store front photography studio with no knowledge of how to run a business; how to set my camera in manual mode or how to use studio lights.  But I love to learn and so I did! Those early years were a challenge.  I literally felt like my brain would explode sometimes; there was so much to learn!  I had some really amazing and patient clients in those early years.  My craft was not the best and I learned from every photo shoot.  I learned by making mistakes and then having to fix the mistakes in Photoshop.  I made financial mistakes, sales mistakes, ordering mistakes and tax mistakes.  Some mistakes in life are more costly than others!  A good friend stopped by one day and put it in perspective for me…some mistakes cost a few dollars in inventory, others cost a whole septic system!  I was very fortunate that my mistakes were never as costly as a whole septic system!  Most of my daily mistakes were in product perfection; I would be disappointed in how a product printed and I would have to print over again.  Or I would scratch something with the framing process and need to reprint.  As I had people work for me; I would have to pay for their mistakes too.  One of my biggest mistakes was not keeping up with the tax man.  I learned dearly from that mistake but I am happy to report that I paid them off the same month I closed my studio.  After about 8 years; I left the photography industry to take a job as a flight attendant.  I really felt I learned the equivalent to a masters’ degree in that life experience!  It was a very stressful, demanding chapter in my life.  But I am thankful for all the lessons I learned and all the people I met.

The experience of becoming a flight attendant was exciting and back in familiar territory for me.  It was very similar to becoming a nurse; mostly safety and emergency procedures.  The education process itself was pretty easy but the evaluation process of becoming a flight attendant can be stressful.  Perfection is demanded and there was always the threat of being sent home from training if your test scores fell short.  We all were one test away from our dream.  The bonding of our class was an unique thing as we were all thrown together for training, basically eating, studying and living together.  I count many of my classmates as friends to this day and I have actually lived with two of them since graduation.  We have recurrent training every year on our anniversary date.  The job can be a bit intimidating because you never know when a line check by the training department will happen or if the FAA inspector will be on your flight as well.  It helps to have a solid routine of tasks, a good work ethic and to review the skills often.

So that brings me to the three R’s of real learning.  Receptivity, Resourcefulness and Resiliency.  I wanted to give a background of my personal learning path to demonstrate how each one of these has been instrumental in my learning over the years.  I will explore each one in my next three blog posts.  I argue that the future of learning has to change.  The traditional methods don’t always work and the costs have gotten very exorbitant!  I believe a combination of these three things are what makes learning possible.