If you’ve been following my blog these past few entries, you’ve noticed that I’ve embarked on a new adventure. I’m an educator who’s entered an MBA program. I’m a Sloan Fellow at MIT.
Since the start of June, I’ve been studying microeconomics, leadership, financial accounting, and marketing management. I’m learning a lot, and I’m doing it in an extremely intense environment. We go to class daily (M-F) from 8:30am to either 4:30pm or 6:00pm. When we’re not in class, we’re studying, working on problem sets, and working through group projects. It’s exhilarating and exhausting.
That said, everything I’m learning is completely new to me. I don’t have any background in these subjects and, after a few more weeks of them, I’ll take my finals and then shift into a new set of courses through the end of August – finance, operations, and data, models, and decision making. I don’t have much background in these three courses either.
Let me just say that every single day is a humbling experience. Actually, every single hour is a humbling experience.
There’s an image in the movie, Back to School, with Rodney Dangerfield that keeps coming to mind when I think about how I feel right now. It’s the point toward the end of the movie when he’s cramming to pass his finals. He’s got a book in his hand wherever he goes – the shower, the massage table (he knows how to live), the gym, etc. That’s about what I look like right now (wedge in a laptop and picture me younger, fitter, and female, and you get the picture).
The hardest part of this learning experience, however, isn’t the challenge of learning all of these new skills and concepts. Nope. The hardest part, for me, is not feeling like a complete idiot. Yep. Here I sit. The educator with all the empathy in the world for students and teachers who learn new concepts and skills for the first time. I’m patient. I recognize they need processing time, practice time, and time to digest what they’re learning.
I get all that . . . and yet . . . I can’t seem to apply what I know about learning to myself – the time it takes, the fact that it’s challenging to learn lots of new concepts and skills in a short time, primarily through lecture. I’m having a tough time cutting myself some slack. Instead, I beat myself up for not getting it all immediately.
I’m a big fan of Carol Dweck’s work on the growth mindset. I’ve read nearly all of her books and research studies. When I read her work, I remember thinking how her research gave me a framework for what I knew and felt about students – young and old – and their learning processes (and what I felt about those times in my life when I was learning something new and difficult, like how to write a dissertation).
Guess what? You can get it, but you can still struggle to make it your own. I’m not dumb. I’m not slow. I’m just learning. And it’s HARD. It’s also really hard when your colleagues whip through the concepts and skills because they’ve had the courses before and/or have worked in this field and have used the skills you’re learning every day.
Well, Gayle . . . get over yourself. You’ll keep at it. You’ll learn as much as you can. And you’ll make a lot of mistakes. And you’ll struggle. Swallow your pride, Dr. Allen, and move on.
If you’ve got a story like this to share, I’d love to hear it. I can’t imagine I’m alone on this one.