I have been in school now since 1975. I started young, and I’ve had a handful of graduations, but for all intents and purposes, I feel that I’ve never left school; at some point, I just switched sides of the class room.
Despite being a “gifted” student growing up, I seldom learned the way that teachers wanted me to learn. I don’t have a great memory. I’m a terrible speller (considering what I do for a living), and I often begin something at the end and work forward to the beginning. Therefore, I am not linear, and I’m really not even interested in things that are linear because they don’t capture my imagination. I love looking at maps as they spread out and go several ways. You’ll never catch me pouring over a timeline. I’m also not a procedural thinker: I know an answer to a math problem because I know it, and it makes sense to me. I often cannot explain how I got there.
Over the years, education has become what it has through a conglomeration of cultural, social, historical, and economic factors, and it ideally is designed only for a handful of certain types of thinkers. I worry about everyone else. I worry about the student, like me, who wasn’t served well by spelling lists, whose imagination isn’t charged by summary writing and reports, who doesn’t find meaning in taking a multiple choice test, for whom making meaning is more important than displaying knowledge.
Despite being in education for years and being an English major with two advanced degrees , it took me years to realize that I belong in academia because it’s really not designed for thinkers like me. It took me decades, but I finally learned that I am what is called an intuitive thinker and an intuitive writer. I take meaning and information from several places and make connections and generate what is new. I learn actively. . I think a lot. I trust myself, have an inkling and I write. I use information, techniques and skills I’ve picked up on the way, and I see what I produce. Often it’s a surprise. For example, when I sat down to write this blog, I had no idea I’d create this very paragraph. I wasn’t even thinking about it. It just arrived, and I used words to let it through.
I do enjoy data usually because it’s something to think about. It’s fun to interpret and extract meaning out of. I see numbers as a type of symbolism, and symbolism can be used to make meaning, but in this data-driven, logical realm that often dominates academia, I worry about students like me who interested in the wider perspective, who like numbers, but who also want more. I worry about the students who realize what they know slowly, through processes, not through objective testing and results. I learn from being in a moment and letting all I know and understand up to that moment materialize in certain ways, and there are times that moments cannot be represented numerically or through the collection of data, and if I’m asked to do that, then I’m probably not going to experience success.
I hope that with the diversity of thinkers that we have here on campus that there is room for many types of learners and thinkers. While the human brain works similarly for most people, it is so incredibly complex and unique, and each person has his or her own individual neurological make up and therefore an unique intelligence. I hope we’re building an environment that testifies to that individual beauty. I hope we’re inviting people to learn and be here in their own ways and not in the ways that we insist work best.