Learn by leaving your comfort zone

 

By Ashley Perham

This week’s editorial was written by Ashley Perham, the Settler’s copy editor.

Have you ever considered your learning style? I know that I personally learn best by reading. I would much rather speed-read a textbook chapter than attend a lecture.

Along with being a visual learner, I’m a little bit (ok maybe a lot bit) of a Type A. I like to know all the details about a task before I start doing it. If you’ve ever taken a class with me, I’m *that* student that has to know all the details at the beginning of a project.

It is ironic then that some of the best experiences I’ve had in my life have come from times when I couldn’t read information and learn all the details ahead of time. Instead, I had to dive out of my comfort learn by experience on the job.

The Settler is a great example of this type of experience. Before August of last year, I had never written a news article, and I had no clue what I was doing. I botched my first several articles and often freaked out because I didn’t know how to write a real news article. Why couldn’t I just learn how to write the article before I had to actually do it? However, I kept at it and improved a little every week. Clay Scott’s Writing for Media class gave me more experience, and by the end of the semester, I was confident enough in my abilities to take the copy editor position at The Settler this semester.

Outside Vol State, I work as a choir accompanist and piano teacher at a private school in Springfield. I had never really taught piano before September 2016, and I was scared. Sure, I had taken piano lessons for most of my life, but nobody had every sat me down and said, “Now Ashley, this is how you keep a third grader occupied when he can’t stop touching every key of the piano,” or, “This is how you handle any conflicts with parents about payment.” I would have LOVED to read Piano Teaching for Dummies. I just didn’t have that opportunity. Instead, I learned “through fire” as they say. There were, and still are, rough days, but I’ve learned to love teaching piano. It is an experience I wouldn’t give up now.

There are many, many other “trial by fire” experiences I could share. I know many of you have probably also had these experiences. My encouragement to you, and to myself, is to relish these “out-of-your-comfort-zone” experiences. Remember that you’ve come through these experiences unscathed before, and be confident in your ability to navigate any situation. Will I ever get over my desire to know all the details beforehand? Probably not. But I can start to embrace being uncomfortable.

Like many of you, my time at Vol State is coming to a close. I know that in the future there will be many, many experiences that I will need to face without the benefit of knowing all the details before. I don’t think anyone is going to give me a step-by-step process that says, “At this job, you’re going to have the most annoying co-worker on the earth. Here are four steps that will diffuse every interaction you have.” No. Instead, I’m going to have to just learn by trial-and-error. And someday, I think I’ll be okay with that. For now, I’m just trying to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Have you had any learning experiences that were out of your comfort zone? Or do you learn better that way? Let me know at aperham1@volstate.edu.