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2007-01-23 - 9:13 p.m.

..the embarrassment of learning..

Okay, I can confirm that running in cold, pouring rain really does suck. And, it is incompatible with eyewear (READ: after three minutes I couldn't see).

K and I reached the 4-week mark on our running program. Today we plowed ahead to our next goal, running 7 minutes and walking 5 for three cycles, and feeling pretty comfortable with it. But I am finding it increasingly difficult to find time in my schedule. Classes are in full swing, the chore of editing continues, and tomorrow I give a seminar for our department (WHY did I agree to do this??).

I had a humbling experience in class today. I hesitate to say a 'bad' experience because it really wasn't bad, per se. Once again I finished class WAY early, presenting material that should have required at least 90 minutes if there had been questions. There have been no questions, which has thrown me off. Similar lectures at Dutchess College were peppered with questions. Are Canadian students docile? Is there a different culture in the social sciences? Is there something particular about this new department, or just this batch of students? In spite of my attempts to encourage them, they never interrupt speakers with questions. This is counter to all of my grad school experiences.

So finally at the end of my spiel, I tried one last time provoke questions, and did get a few. Only a few. So then I just asked for input - how could we make this more interesting to them, and engage their opinions? How could we use the time more effectively? And so I got some input, i.e., that it would help if I could structure my classes differently, so as to encourage discussion. Also it would help if I brought up more issues pertaining to environmental management. I swallowed. I've never had experience with either of these things, and so I really could use some more detailed ideas of how to implement them - and so I asked them for more. A few students were rather forthcoming of some examples of how such changes could be implemented. And so I'll be trying out their ideas in the coming weeks.

I have to admit that, although intellectually I see their points, it is still difficult to accept criticism (even when it is constructive). I am going to try to utilize some of their ideas as the class continues. But deep down I came home feeling a little downtrodden. A little bit embarrassed. And a little bit unsure about whether or not I'm in the right place. All this just before I give another seminar for the department tomorrow.

Anyway, I can intellectualize this away, because hey, I didn't know. I don't have experiences in what they want. So the best I can do is to try. In fact, that is part of why I came here - to grow in a new direction and try new things. It's just that the process of doing this is not so easy, because you have to be the 'new kid' who doesn't know everything for a while. It's just that stupid uncomfortable feeling that you have the first time you try out a new bus system, and you don't know where to put the ticket, or how much it will cost, and so you hold everyone up, and they stare at you. Or your first time on the ski lift when you miss the chair, or you fall right when you are getting off, in front of 10-year-old expert shrimpy little skiers, and you are convinced that EVERYONE is laughing at you.

I am trying to remind myself that you have to accept mistakes as part of the process when you learn something new. Duh. All a part of life. Intellectually, I'm all over it. In my heart, although everyone does it at least once, I hate feeling like I just slipped on the ski lift.

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