As I prepare to complete my 18 year journey through traditional education, I can’t help but look back at the different lessons I have and have not learned within the educational process. Above all, I am most proud and thankful for my time at Pepperdine University. I believe that, if not for the education I am currently receiving, I would not be able to reflect so well.
K – 12
Though my experiences varied in the 13 years I worked through the Walla Walla School District, I think the most important lessons I learned were outside of the sit-down classrooms. In choir, softball, after school hangout sessions with my teachers, any time we literally left the walled classroom, and even during basketball: I learned the most about me, my peers, my teachers, and my education.
In choir, I learned how to be a leader: to those above and below me. I gained confidence in my everyday life once I chose to pursue my passion for singing. I put myself in uncomfortable situations like solos, singing competitions, and auditioning for an audition-only choir at the end of my junior year (which I made it into: yay me!). In choir, I also learned that I am only as good individually as those who I surround myself with. In other words, I have to push myself to be better to support others around me to be better, and vice versa.
In softball, I learned many of the same lessons, but especially that I was never done learning. I was a high-average softball player (just below exceptional). I had the outfield arm of death, but other than that, I wasn’t the greatest batter or the fastest runner. Yet, when I was on a great team – one that pushed me to keep trying and keep improving – I was the fastest runner I could be, I was the best batter I could be, and I was the best center-fielder on my team. Eventually I grew my batting talent and, when I played co-ed softball last year, I didn’t have to worry about my running as much because I hit the ball far enough to let me enjoy running around the bases without having to slide.
When I stayed after school to talk to my teachers, I learned the most about what I was and was not doing well in. Instead of stressing out about parent-teacher conferences, or the test coming up in a few days, I learned what the teacher valued most: hard work. I bonded with my teachers, and they helped me through some of the worst parts of my childhood. I never worried about grades when I worked with my teachers in that way because I was always motivated to succeed and learn.
When those same teachers would take the students outside to explore and enjoy the fresh air, they noticeably relaxed. Their lessons benefitted from the fresh air, and the wide open sky as much as our learning did. We were more cooperative, and calm when we made our way back inside. Being allowed to wiggle around, laugh, and learn from our peers, everything felt easier to learn. I know now that it had to do with the reduced-stress environment, therefore improving our neuroplasticity, but experiencing it was – as learning first hand always is – more poignant. I learned that it’s just as important, if not a requirement, to have fun while I work.
In addition to having fun, being happy, and enjoying my peers I learned in basketball that it is important to know your strengths, weaknesses, and the things you just aren’t good at or don’t like. Sometimes it is better to quit something then to continue torturing yourself with something you hate. Basketball was fun when I played with my mom or with a friend, but I never had fun when I played in an organized setting. In fact, basketball was my first introduction to how much I hate getting up early in the morning. In the 7th grade I had to get up at 5AM everyday during the season to get dressed and go to basketball practice. When I got there, messy haired and groggy eyed, and saw the other girls with makeup and smiles, I became unnecessarily angry at them all. I hated it so much. I also wasn’t that great at the sport. I played from 4th grade to 7th grade, and I never got any better. As coordinated as I was in softball, I looked like a newborn baby deer on the court. It was terrible, I was terrible, and I quite trying to give a fish legs. If those examples aren’t strong enough, here’s a better one. Our team had an exercise where we would lay on our backs and pretend there was a wet paper bag surrounding us. We were supposed to shoot the basketball up to “break” the bag. I literally could not shoot my way out of a paper bag. Poor form and not enough wrist strength I guess? It was embarrassing.
All of these lessons remind me, everyday, that there is something to learn in every experience. But I think that these lessons are all applicable to my career as well. They were what helped me make it through freshman year at community college to senior year at university. I unconsciously pulled information from each experience to get me through exams, stress, and bad teaching experiences. When I could no longer cram lessons about how to write code in Python, I took a break with friends and made sure to have fun. When I was lost, or feeling out of touch, I would reach out to professors for advice on planning my next step. I eventually started a club, which didn’t exactly take off, but I think it helped a few people who needed it at that time.
Now, in my one and only year of graduate school, I have not only continued to experience fun in education, but I have learned that it’s scientifically proven to be a great thing. Thankfully, the last leg of my educational run (for the moment), has been one of great fun, friend making, and tons and tons of learning. Even though I sometimes find myself wondering how I’m going to be able to sort and coherently discuss everything I’ve learned, I know it means that this year has been very successful.
Work Hard to Learn
All of this, thankfully, has taught me how important is to work hard at what I want, but that if I’m not enjoying working hard, it probably isn’t worth it. That means I want to have work at fun, because I won’t learn as much while I’m there if I don’t. I also learned that I should always be working to better myself in my job. As technology changes, so do the people and processes around me. Learning new techniques, new requirements, and new ways of thinking will improve the work that I do for the people I work with.
But most of all, I need to offer support to those around me because it can’t be done alone. Working as a unified force will lead to far more successes than if we are all working together as individuals. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be working to make progress on our own, in fact – if we want to move on to bigger things we should – but it does mean we can all get there quicker if we work together first.
All in all, I don’t think having fun is something that should be seen as a luxury but a necessity in the workplace. For me, it means learning more and working harder. Stress happens, but fun and laughter should always be involved in the workplace.
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