Learning Opportunities Around Me: Hummingbirds to Perpendicular Pencils

The response to my earlier article — Bubbles and Rainbows — https://medium.com/@phyllis.farias/bubbles-and-rainbows-in-life-50a090887dce — was gratifying.

There were many who read the blog a number of times and found it had profound thoughts, while others found it fun. Some went in search of bubbles and rainbows and found them in songs like, “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” and “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” A friend sent a picture of her granddaughter blowing an enormous bubble. Someone else said, when I see a rainbow, I always make a promise.

And the most amazing response (a forwarded link) was sent in by a friend — the work of a Christian Spencer, a photographer, capturing the prism effect when sunlight passes through the wings of hummingbirds. Here is the link:

https://www.designboom.com/art/christian-spencer-winged-prism-hummingbird-photography-08-05-2020/

Coming to what I want to share this week. While there is a clamour for online classes, we must not forget that the learning opportunities all around us?

What is education? Without going into definitions — it is simply the acquisition of knowledge, skills and the development of the right attitudes and values.

Should I be acquiring this in only a particular way — from books, teachers and now online classes and YouTube and so on? While these are important, my greatest education during lockdown 1, 2 and 3 came from my kitchen and doing the work around the house. There was much I observed, thought
about, reflected upon and had conversations on.

Many women and that includes me (excuse the gender discrimination) complained about the enormous time being spent in the kitchen. One of my friends went to the extent of saying that she was talking to the gas stove and the tap the whole day.

I tried to think and observe and find out the cause for this. 3 points came to mind:

  1. Was it that I was so used to having the maids doing the work that I was not as quick and efficient?
  2. Running through my mind constantly was the thought that when the maids were back they should not find the house less than what I expected of them. Hence the pressure of living up to some expectations created by me in my head.
  3. Was it poor planning?

I believe it was a combination of all 3.

The first was age as well as being out of practice. I had to re-learn some skills.

The second was psychological and had to do with, ‘What will the maids think of me? Was I doing the work with the right attitudes and values?

Poor planning? It was — more reactive than proactive.

Those were days when there was a lot of time to think, you know — when one is cleaning the coriander or sweeping the yard. Ample time to think about planning and planning better. The goal being to have some free time to do whatever I wanted.

Here is just one example of what I discovered about my working style. I was doing one task at a time. If it was cooking, it was only cooking and if it was washing it was only that, thus taking double the time. So after sitting comfortably at the dining table and getting all the cutting done for everything
planned for the day — I would enter the kitchen, put a dish on the stove to cook and while that was getting done, I would do the washing. I was present in the kitchen to keep an eye on the dish that was cooking, and also do the washing. If there was another dish to cook, I would put it on the fire and then
wipe the dishes dry.

It was all about prioritising and sequencing.

And that brings to mind Steven Covey’s Habit 3 which says “Put first things first”. There are choices we can make:

  1. Do “important” things only when they become “urgent”. Do you recognize the Procrastinator?
  2. Do the “not important” things that are “urgent” for others. This is the Yes Man / Woman, the Pleaser.
  3. Do the “not important” and “not urgent” things. The Slacker, spending time on … well, do I need to spell that out?
  4. The Prioritizer does the important things at the right time.

We are only human and we do spend time on all four. The question is where are we spending most of our time?

So if we “put first things first”, that will leave us much more time to be the Prioritizer — giving us balance in our lives.

And that in turn will give you time for learning for yourself, your children and others.

True education is all around us — in the home, in nature, in a song, in sport, in dance, in art — literally everywhere. Many years ago, I was observing an art teacher’s lesson with 5 year olds. Her topic was “Cats”. She had downloaded a number of artists’ works on cats. She exposed the children to these artists and the word feline. It was amazing that these kids could recognize and match the artist with the art and rattle off unpronounceable names. She then gave them sheets of paper and asked them to draw circles. Her instruction was, ‘hold your pencil perpendicular to the paper and draw your circles’.

How could these children understand the word perpendicular? However, as she was saying it, she was doing it herself. They did not need an explanation.

(I suggest you draw a few circles holding the pencil perpendicular to the paper. You will be surprised that you can draw perfect or near perfect circles)

She then asked the children to choose any one of their circles to proceed with the drawing (Decision making). She continued to give instructions in like manner and unfolding before them were cats — big cats, small cats, scruffy cats. It did not matter that the cats were not perfect. Not a word of criticism
or erase this or that. They received a perfect lesson — knowledge, skills and the ability to value their work and that of others.

It is said that if the focus is only on acquiring knowledge, then about 80% is generally forgotten within a year. If the 3 are combined, learning is much more permanent.

[For those who have young children, the book “Seven habits of Happy Kids” by Sean Covey is delightful].

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Phyllis Farias

Educational Consultant with 2 passions in life: the Child — from toddler to adolescent, and Education — education philosophy and psychology