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My Lessons Learned on Learning

Adron Hall
A jovial coder, listening to some metal, enjoying the day.
・5 min read

NOTE: This is my experience and very much YMMV. I'm NOT telling anybody this is how or what they need to do to be successful learning, it's merely ideas you can borrow or steal! Enjoy!

I had just, after a couple years of intense music studies, shifted into computer science at college and learned something very important about myself. I signed up for Computer Programming 1, the most beginner of beginner classes on computer programming.

The class started and very early in the first few weeks we'd studied control structures and variables. We were in the midst of writing our first program and I'd gone into my ADHD induced dozed off state, while mind you being wide awake with eyes wide open. However as I sat there, my eyes did start to shut. In a mere moment I relaxed and fell sideways. I awoke in the process of falling, grasped the desk with my hands, as if it was anchored to the ground. However it was too late, the energy of my fall exceeded the lack of weight in the desk, and I uprooted it with a screech of the metal desk feet on the lanoleum tile floor.

BANG, the desk hit the ground and I, now laying 90 degrees of sitting upright with my desk gripped in my hands and me riding it into the floor like a pilot in a plane. Fortunately, being a long haired metal head with plenty of meh I wasn't embarrassed so much as confused. I announced, "I'm fine!" and got up to a few smirks and smiles from classmates. One of the students spouted, "that's Adron for ya" as she turned to face to the front of the class again. The teacher asked if I was, "ok". I responded, with the second free lesson of the day, "I'm fine just got a little bored and distracted."

The teacher smirked and shook her head at me. She then contineud with the class as I set my desk upright and sat back down to continue too.

The Lessons

first and foremost ADHD will thrash me into boredom and I will entirely phase out when being "taught at" vs be "informed while I learn" or "learning together". You see, I simply don't do classroom style learning, I teach myself and then work with people to move past stumbling blocks. It's a wonderful way to learn.

second lesson was that, one shouldn't spout of that they're bored in class. It's just not cool. Be polite, state things constructively and people will help you.

Benefits of The Teacher

However amidst all of this fracas that I caused, the teacher noticed these things that I had yet to truly learn. She notified me after class that I needed to schedule a time to meet at my earliest convenience. I did and later the next week we met.

At this meeting she, in blunt directness said, "I know you've very likely got ADHD but you're doing great with the class. I also bet you don't do well with structured teachings, which is why I'm going to give you the rest of the semester's assignments and let you have at them."

I was blown away, confused, and impressed at her introspection and reading of me. She added to this though, the third and most valuable lesson of this entire class. This lesson was more valuable than anything I'd learned in college or life up to this point. It was something I knew, without knowing that it was something I could put into words. She said, "if you're like me, and I suspect you are, I'm not going to hold you to attending every class. Make sure you come in for the tests though, and try to come most of the time, but mainly just get the work done. In addition, get up every hour or so and change the place you're working, or just walk around. It'll prevent dozing off."

She added one more thing, "Oh, also, don't be the accidental asshole, no need to say you're bored in my class. Just keep that to yourself you already have fans and friends in the class regardless of you knowing it, no need to give me shit about your boredom."

The Lesson Trio

Through this these three lessons were reinforced, I'll call them:

  1. Learning Together Alone - My ability to learn, fast and effectively, is dictated by my ability to hone in on specifics, put those into memory while taking in the abstractions of the ideas at hand. If any questions come up, joining forces or asking a teacher complete this process for me. No classrooms, no needing to sit and be told things that I could easily read 2-10x faster, no need to have concepts pushed at me in a specific dogmatic path.
  2. Be Constructive - Again, just like traveling from point A to point B, we're all just trying to go somewhere, and we're all working at this learning thing. Work together, not at odds with each other, everything is better then!
  3. Take Breaks & 3rd Place Displace - When learning, especially with ADHD, you have to break your own super power of hyper-focus as much as you have to battle that of absolute, uncontrollable, and forced distraction. If you can get one under control, you can get them both to work in your favor! Using 3rd places to your advantage, like coffee shops or parks, to do work are extremely effective. Add in a break every 45 minutes or so and you can create an amazingly productive, powerful, and efficient workflow to learn and to simply get things done!

My respect for my teacher just shot through the roof. Not only was she no bullshit, she read me like a book, but she also just pointed out what I needed - these obvious things that I would have otherwise likely missed for many more years.

I took these lessons to heart and started what would become my frequent use and displacement from coffee shops. In addition it taught me that to be truly efficient and effective, I need chunks of time but also need to break up those time chunks with something more significant than looking away from the screen. I need the option to get up and walk away, take a hike, ride a loop around a lake. Something, anything more than merely sitting there and pondering that I'm taking a break.

That brings me to my next blog entry "Magic 3rd Places", that I'll have posted soon. I'll delve into much deeper detail about how I use 3rd places, what 3rd places really are and how I keep my impact to others and myself to a minimum while making use of displacing around 3rd places frequently.

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