Imagine you want to know how to spell. You get (if you were me back in 1977) the Schonell Spelling book and start at the very beginning:
and you keep on going until you reach the bitter end of learning to spell, confidently being able to spell “bacchanalian” at the drop of a wine bottle.
If you want to learn to spell (leaving aside the moot point of whether or not in the days of spell checkers (I mean, did you really think I actually spelled ‘bacchanalian’ myself?) learning to spell is a valuable exercise), “learning to spell” isn’t how you do it.
Spelling well is a byproduct of reading a lot. (Well, it is a byproduct of reading a lot and not having a specific spelling difficulty or being dyslexic).
If you read a lot, words “look right” or “look wrong” because you have seen the words before. I think.
The good thing is that when you are learning to spell as a byproduct of reading, you are unconscious of the learning going on. You get to enjoy yourself (assuming you like reading), reading away. It isn’t until much later that you see the heinous “definately” written somewhere and a profound sense of unease descends… but at least you know how to spell definitely!
I think it is the same with other skills. If you want to learn how to contribute well in discussions, you could read a book on good ways to open a debate, key phrases for suggesting ideas, methods of interjection, challenge etc… but if you actually want to learn to discuss things well, perhaps you should just, well, discuss things.
If you want to write a good story, perhaps the best way to learn is to write a bad story first then figure out how you wish it had turned out.
Back to yesterday’s post – where I was bemoaning today’s love affair with “learning intentions”…
By having the learning intention spelled out, we are conscious of what we are learning. This is dull.
Can’t we just enjoy the discussion, the novel, writing our story, starting a business, playing the football match, baking the cake, playing the music, painting our picture, mixing our chemicals, sending our space rocket high in the sky…?
We will learn. Perhaps we will learn more if the learning comes in the form of subconscious byproducts of activities rather than the focus and purpose of the activities.
By drawing attention to the immediate functional purpose of the things we do, we perhaps miss the point, the interest and the joy.