when it’s easy, I’m not learning

As I work through the backblog, I come across phrases or suggestions to future Jim that I wrote sometimes a long time ago. For most of them, I can remember the underlying thought that sparked the backblog entry.

One of those underlying thoughts arises from conversations I’ve had around aikido and my development as an aikidoka. It has admittedly been a year since I’ve been in the dojo, though we have been keeping ourselves going via zoom and (distancing requirements allowing) meetings in the Common. One thing the absence from the dojo has done for me (to me?) is that I’ve been reflecting on my progression as an aikido practitioner.

The first few days back in the dojo, when they come, will be strange but I’m looking forward to them. But one thing I’ll be gauging in those first days back is, where is my aikido. I expect that the first weeks, perhaps months, will be difficult. But I don’t mind the difficulty.

One thing those conversations about aikido showed me, revealed to me, is that learning involves struggle. I don’t mean this in a negative or pessimistic way. Rather, if I’m working through things I do not yet understand, which is a key part of learning, then I can’t expect what I’m doing to be smooth.

So learning involves bumps in the road. I don’t know the path I want to tread; I can take heart from the fact that in aikido, others have walked that path, and so I have the comfort of knowing that the path can be successfully walked.

With mathematics, there are some similarities and some differences. The road can be bumpy; I was going through an old notebook this evening, noting questions I still haven’t yet worked my way through; questions that I’ve solved since; and questions that others have solved since.

But one significant difference is that it isn’t always clear that the question can be resolved, or at least resolved by me. With aikido, I have some confidence that I can learn, to some extent, how to do each of the techniques. But with mathematics, I have to admit that there are questions that may well remain unresolved.

Remembering this basic point, that learning is a bumpy road, is an important point of reflection in my own teaching. The road will be bumpy for my students; they are encountering the material, the techniques, for the first time, and I may have been working through the material for years, or longer. This ties very directly back to a point I’ve made in earlier writings, about the increasing distance between teachers and the beginners they’re teaching.

There are depths to this thought that I’m confident remain to be explored, and I’ll keep digging.

~ by Jim Anderson on 14 March 2021.

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