Every time I notice that ‘learning is uncomfortable’ I am shocked. You would think that after over thirty years as a professional teacher, I would be better prepared for it.
When I describe this phenomenon to people, I turn to dolphin trainers and refer to a book about teaching with behaviour modification called “Don’t shoot the dog”. The book is full of techniques that respected animal trainers use such as positive reinforcement, rather than punishing.
To train a dolphin to do tricks, the only tool the trainer has is a bucket of small fish rewards. The only action the trainer can make is to give or withhold a piece of fish as a reward.
Did you know that when the dolphin figures out what the trainer wants, it has a tantrum? It does this just before it does the performance perfectly.
Well, after years of observing learners I can confirm that this indeed happens to us humans as well. Not everyone, nor every time someone learns. Often enough, though, to know that it can be an important breakthrough in our behaviours.
If and when it happens, you need to give the learner space. If you're noticing it in yourself you will just need a little time. I am not sure why this happens. Perhaps, it’s ourselves coming to terms with being wrong, Maybe it was so obvious, yet we hung onto false self-beliefs.
Perhaps, rewiring our brains is emotionally draining. To be honest, I don’t have the answer to that.
The bottom line here is that learning is hard work. It takes a lot of physical and emotional energy. Don’t be hard on yourself or others when experiencing this. They say good things aren’t easy.
Zebras on the plains of Namibia. Photograph and text copyright ©️ Len Metcalf 2018