Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Keeping Things in Perspective

Sorry, this is a bit late. I was so tired after my midterm last night that I couldn't write one more word. And I slept in this morning. The bad news is that I can't imagine I did well on my botany midterm since I didn't finish it, and became hopelessly confused after days of studying.

The good news is I decided I need to change my orientation--after so many years as a high achiever in school--and fully embrace the concept that the joy of learning is more important than the grades I get. Having said that, I'll share a few of my feelings about the class, the program, and the responses from my fellow students.

When I started taking gardening classes last April, what I loved best about the two classes I took was their practicality. In the first, all of the students designed and planted a garden at a local community garden, and our teacher shared her vast knowledge of plants--which was extraordinary.

We had weekly assignments where we charted the growth of plants, collected seed pods, and brought in examples of what was in bloom in our garden or neighborhood. Our tests were take-home exams, which leveled the playing field. For the people who had a breadth of background, they could spend very little time answering the questions. For those of us to whom the subject was new, we could spend as much time as we needed, and taking the exam was a learning experience.

The second class was pruning and we saw slides of good and bad pruning jobs, and for four consecutive Saturdays, we spent three hours pruning plants, shrubs, and small trees at our teacher's clients' homes. I learned a tremendous amount that I'm using on a daily basis.

Our teacher was not only supportive, but she learned everyone's name by the fifth week of class. She wrote lovely comments on our papers, and fully answered the questions we posed. After 30 years as a landscape designer, she was still so enthusiastic about her subject that it was inspiring. And, she was a true plant advocate, and had a wonderful sense of humor.

The botany class is a totally different experience. While our teacher is enthusiastic, he clearly needs to rethink the way he's teaching this class. I could go on and on, but I'll leave it at that.

Last night, when the midterm and class were over, and I walked to the parking lot with a few friends from class, one of them said, "You know, the teacher didn't prepare us for this test at all. What a waste of time." Another said, "I don't know why we have to learn this. It's not helping me at all. And when I get my certificate in gardening and horticulture, no one is going to ask me, 'What was your grade in botany?'"

But, the best comment was from a friend who knew two sisters who were enrolled in the interior design program. She said. "The one sister, who's my friend, really cares about grades. She studied all the time, and while she got 'A's, it was a tremendous commitment of time. Her sister didn't care at all about the grades. She got 'C's', and shrugged it off. All she cared about was learning interior design. She volunteered for all kinds of projects. She truly enhanced her skill level, and she loves the work she's doing."

I told my friend about a man in our first class, who was the most knowledgeable person of all, and although he had a Ph.D in another subject, only got what he called "gentleman C's" in his gardening classes. He said his true interest was the gardening itself, and he didn't have the time to devote to memorization.

So...what is the point of this lengthy post? I've decided I need to change. I, too, care way more about gardening than grades. I, too, don't want to spend ridiculous amounts of time indoors reading when I am taking these classes so I can be outdoors gardening. I, too, would prefer volunteering to work in gardens rather than trying to dazzle people by my intellect, which isn't at all apparent in a botany class.

While I know it's easier said that done, I have decided it's better to be a mediocre student who spends my days with my hands in soil and studies plants in the great outdoors than an "A" student who spends day after day reading books and studying online.

What challenges have you faced when returning to school or learning something new? How have you resolved them?


Sarah Trunkey said...

I was just talking about this yesterday with my couselor. All or nothing, black or white, the best or not worthy of living. *sigh* Thank you for this reminder.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Sarah,
Welcome to my blog. Yes, I, too, "used to be" an all or nothing person, and still am to a large degree. And, this was a huge issue that I discussed in therapy.

What's funny is that I didn't see it as an "all or nothing issue" until you brought it up. Of course, it is, and thank you for bringing that to my attention.


Sarah Trunkey said...

Thanks for the welcome. I started reading about a week ago. I'm bipolar and don't really know anyone else that is (that I know of). I like reading your thoughts. :)

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Sarah,
I didn't know anyone else who was bipolar before I began writing this blog. And, over time we have developed a really supportive virtual community.

I don't write a lot about bipolarity any more. But, I do write about depression even though I'm mostly well these days. And, there are many others who write and comment about both.


Writing Works said...


When I attended Bible College, one of our professors told us that it's the 'C' students, not the 'A' students that make the best Pastors. Some people are too 'brain smart' and not enough 'heart smart'.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Writing Works,
Thanks for letting me know. Actually, I truly am "brain smart," just not in this.

But, the real lesson for me is that I'm more interested in "doing" than just learning right now.

And it's a huge waste of my time to try and get good grades, just to satisfy my ego.

Still, it's a big change for me, but one I'm ready to embrace.