Becoming An Independent Learner

Becoming An Independent Learner

Sitting in a classroom and “waiting for learning to happen” is not efficient. The following books provide helpful ways of preparing yourself for independence in learning. They address how to recognize “brain states,” how our senses work–including little-known senses, getting rid of mental blocks, and how to deal with toxic criticism from classmates, teachers and parents.
Even if you can’t get all of these, the summaries below will help. Dealing with toxic criticism, especially, is described in some detail so that you can develop strategies that prevent “mental blocks”from starting. Parents who read this can help their children do this.

Wise, Anna. The High Performance Mind. Putnam & Sons, NY, 1995.
Getting into the zone by knowing how to recognize brain wave states and how to reach them is the point of this book. Frequency and amplitude are the two aspects—frequency is high to low, (Hz) and amplitude is microvolts—intensity\strength. High frequency per second means high brain wave activity—lowest is coma and sleep, highest measured is everyday activity. Amplitude means the power used of the power available.
Combinations of these—are what are involved in thought. Beta—14-30 Hz, Alpha, 8-13, Theta, 4-7, Delta, 0.5 –3. There are higher frequencies but their purposes are not well studied. Gamma, for example is 40-60 Hz.

VanBuddenbrock, W. The Senses. U. of Michigan Press. Ann Arbor: 1958.
We have feeling and awareness through sensations. We are all aware of the 5 main senses and may also think we have another one—the sixth sense that is uncontrollable. But actually we do have other senses. The author identifies eight senses, and others as well. He lists them as the eight senses and the others in the table of contents. In part two he lists, sight, color, adjustments to visual images, hearing, smell and taste, touch, heart, gravity, propriocentric elements (balance, location), internal feelings.

Singer, Kay. Removing Mental Blocks.
De-hypnotize yourself. Recognizing you HAVE a block is necessary. Sources of blocks are emotional memories, conditioning by other—repeated telling, doing the same things over and over, critical parents or family members, teacher’s opinions, failure at certain activities or tasks, feelings of inferiority because of others’ attitudes or behavior, etc. Once you realize that you have problems doing something well, you can ask yourself why—do I feel this way because I fear or dislike doing it, or?

Maisel, E. Toxic Criticism: Break the Cycle. McGraw-Hill, NY: 2007
This book describes how friends, family, co-workers, and you yourself may be “toxic” and affect your self-confidence, performance, health and relationships. It also provides six “keys” to breaking the cycle (and getting control) of negativism.
Criticism, whether well-intentioned or not, can be hurtful. It too often results in “blocking” you from being your best self. It is, as you know, suggestions from people you want to or need to pay attention to that may affect your performance and self-confidence. We have identified a “hidden observer” who can give you the facts, but he or she can be “drowned out” by others and even your own “inner critic.” That happens when you permit (without realizing it) your self to accept toxic criticism. All criticism is not unfair but some if it is, but can be toxic too, if done badly.
Starting when you are in your feelings about yourself, ask yourself the following questions. Do I react to ALL criticism? Am I intimidated by others’ criticism? Are there things I don’t do BECA– USE I believe I can’t, and why is that—because I have been told or criticized or laughed at? Do I have confidence in my own opinion of myself or do I depend on others to tell me or evaluate me? WHO in my life is critical of me, and do I :”put up with it” because I am afraid or worry too much about what others think?
Neither ignoring nor internalizing criticism helps. Nor does accepting criticism just because of who said it, nor giving in to it. But confronting the people who give it doesn’t help either.
The first step is to set some goals for yourself that you have confidence in reaching. Then check out your abilities and skills and see if you have been realistic. If yes, get on with it. The third step is developing an “attitude.” That means learning how to “deflect” criticism. Here are some techniques: Act as if you believe in yourself. and you will. Don’t let others tell you how YOU should feel. If something is important to you, don’t let others make the decision about your feelings for you. If you DO get criticized, it’s not the end of the world—don’t let it get to you.
p. 177. Eight steps to deal with toxic criticism
1. You gain clarity and courage when you set your own path.
2. You adopt an “attitude,” let toxic criticism “roll off your back.”
3. You monitor “self-talk” and get in the habit of shutting yourself off when you have thoughts that don’t serve you well.
4. You get to know your own personality and take charge of yourself—be in control of yourself.
5. When you ARE criticized, “take control” and manage the first wave of emotion—you decide—“I will think about this,” to yourself. Then after the feeling, you can say to the critic, “I’ll think about it.”
6. If the criticism, and your thoughtful opinion is that it’s irrelevant or doesn’t relate to your life, “toss it away like a piece of trash.”
7. If the criticism is worth considering, think “How can I use this?”
8. Once you think it through, DO it, — USE it, as you need to.

How can you control that first WAVE of FEELING?
1. Breathing—take several deep breaths and hold each one for a few seconds, then exhale. If a reply is appropriate, say “let me get back to you,” or “I’ll think about that,” If you think you need to respond.
2. Think a POSITIVE thought. “I am OK with this, and I’m in control—I don’t need to do anything I don’t want to.” “I feel good, I’m fine with myself.”
3. Remind yourself that “I can put this feeling away and process it later.” Just let the feeling “wash away,” for now. Then later kick the tires, write a letter and then throw it away, give an imaginary lecture or just “pass it off.” Remember the source and avoid it if the criticism is often, or unfair, or malicious.
4. Finally, “break the cycle”
a. If the criticism is all or mostly what you get, even from someone you think you like—drop them or avoid them if they are toxic—they are not good for you.
b. If the criticism is harsh but fair, “negotiate,” and use it, but separate the criticism from the person or sources, and if the source is the problem, minimize contact.
c. Remember, some criticism can be helpful.

If the person being critical is someone you can’t avoid or negotiate with—parent, teacher, employer, just set up an internal CONTROL. Tell yourself, and rehearse:
1. I will listen, 2. I won’t react immediately, 3. I’ll take the good from it, 4. I’ll ignore the bad, and 5., I’ll take a positive view. YOU DON’T HAVE TO REACT AT ALL.

If the criticism is TOXIC and not helpful, avoiD the source as much as you can, and if the source is family or not avoidable, develop a RITUAL. Some people repeat an internal “mantra” like “I won’t react.” To “neutralize” and control the feeling—hum to yourself, “This criticism is a joke, tra la, (He\she) isn’t worth my time, ha, ha, I can just let it fade away, ta da. Goodby, goodby, goodby.” Don’t argue, just “blow it off” and change the subject, or leave.

Ask yourself five questions when you are criticized.
1. Am I REALLY being criticized, or is this something else?
2. If it’s criticism, what is the content—is it important to me?
3. Is it fair or unfair?
4. If it’s either, DO I CARE?
5. How do I want to respond?
a. Ignore
b. Smile and say nothing
c. Say, “Thanks, I’ll think about it.”
d. If necessary and it IS fair, say, “I’ll do something about that.”
e. If the critic insists on something, say, “I’ll think about it.”
f. If it continues, just let it go on—don’t argue and don’t “lose it.”

    Be “cool.” Practice coolness, deliberate and careful thoughtfulness, pause before answering, look directly at the person or persons, give only answers that you want to, and avoid agreeing with the criticism, even if there is some truth to it.

Label criticism for what it is—someone trying to “mind YOUR business.” Does the critic have any right to be critical—e.g. parent, teacher? Or is it a “friend” or acquaintance who may be getting too personal. If so, just “move on,” and tell yourself, “I’ll respond IF and WHEN I’m ready

You can get some insight into your handling of criticism by asking yourself:
1. What kind of criticism usually bothers me?
2. What kinds do I usually handle well?
3. How do I NOW handle it?
4. Am I in control, and if not, what do I usually do?
5. Can I recognize TOXIC criticism from helpful?
6. Do I realize that IF I am unduly bothered, I need to CHANGE?

John H. Langer, JD, Ed.D. Retired Federal agency manger, former professor of education, public school administrator, and writer of a number of articles and publications on education, public affairs, substance abuse and social issues. In writing a book on attention and memory as it relates to education, this blog is helping to focus attention n current issues, and hopefully, add something useful as well.

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