Ignorance is bliss … Learning to be explicit

My Dad used to say that what I didn’t know wouldn’t do me any harm. He was not impressed when a brother wrote in my autograph book when I was in my early teens that what I didn’t know wouldn’t do me much good either!

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

I’m torn between the two. I have come to realise that the more I know, the more there is to learn.

the more I know the more there is to learn

This learning journey never ceases. Each step is just one further into the unknown. I seem to know less now, or need to know more now, than I ever have before. How can that be?

There are those around me who are content with who they are, with where they are, with what they are doing, and wake up to each day wanting no more than it brings. I strive to achieve that contentment, and practice the joy of being in the present moment, believing strongly in its rewards. But at the same time I strive to do more, to learn more, to achieve more. The doing and learning is joy in the present moment, for me. It is both exhilarating and disheartening to realise that the learning journey stretches so far ahead.

Learning about learning

I have spent almost my entire life thinking and learning about learning and education, particularly literacy education and the education of young children. Though the journey has been long, my knowledge is narrow and small, and of absolutely no use in a trivia quiz, unless the question happens to be about a nursery rhyme, and then don’t ask me too much about its “real” or original meaning.

When I set upon my journey to create a website of teaching resources that I had made, I thought it was an easy thing. I had many resources already made. I just needed to get some illustrations done and put them on a website. What could be simpler than that?

Simple?

Every step I take drives me deeper into complexity, into the unknown. Unravelling the complexity demands that I be explicit, that I see and describe each minute step.

Being explicit

I always considered the ability to be explicit, to see and understand each step, essential to effective teaching in an early childhood classroom. If one was unable to see the exact spot where a child was going wrong, where a misunderstanding had been formed, or a misconception learned, or the potential for its occurrence, it was difficult to either prevent or repair it. I considered that ability to be one of my strengths as a teacher.

Over the past few years when I have been giving art briefs to illustrators, my need to be explicit was stretched anew. I had to describe in precise detail exactly what I wanted. It was no use saying I wanted a castle on a hill and expect that the artist would be able to fill in all the details I could see in my mind. I had to explicitly describe it in detail:  did it need a moat or a drawbridge, was the drawbridge to be up or down, were there turrets or flags, and if there were flags, what colour and design they would have, how many windows, how many people, and what were they doing and how were they dressed …

© Norah Colvin Artwork by Kari Rocher Jones

© Norah Colvin Artwork by Kari Rocher Jones

Then it was time to start thinking more specifically about what I required of the website … More complexity to unravel!

Oh for a journey across the seas rather than deeper into complexity!

It is said that it is darkest before the dawn. How much darker will it get?

A recent comment by Sarah Brentyn of Lemon Shark alerted me to the fact that although I have mentioned my website in previous posts, I had not made it clear that the purpose of the website is to make my resources available through subscription i.e. to sell my resources. While some will be available without subscription, many will be available only by paid subscription. I have received a quote for establishing the website, which I am considering. I have previously referred to it being my jetski. I think I was fairly explicit about my requirements in discussions with the designer.

However, I want some of my resources to be interactive, not downloadable, used only on the website by paid subscribers. It appears that creating the types of interactivity I have in mind will be more problematic, but they are what I consider will be my point of difference. I have had to learn to explain, very explicitly, the types of interactions I require. I even made videos demonstrating the interactions in the hope of achieving greater clarity.

However, it was while being explicit about these steps that I realised I had omitted something from my website brief that will be necessary for the interactions to be used effectively, if they can be made at all.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

And so I go in my merry dance – up the ladders and down the snakes, hoping to fall into a pool of clarity rather than a puddle of complexity.

Thank you for allowing me to express my muddle through writing in an attempt to make sense of it all.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback and suggestions. Please share your thoughts.

 

23 thoughts on “Ignorance is bliss … Learning to be explicit

  1. Bec

    Hi Nor, it does sound like a very challenging process, but you know what – using the snakes and ladders allegory – you always get to the destination! It might just take a bit longer than expected. Hopefully you are able to capitalise on the opportunities which present themselves, and I am sure the final product (though I can’t imagine a point when you would ever say ‘well, it’s finished now’ and then rest on your laurels! I suspect it might be an ongoing project!!) will be excellent thanks to your vision driving it.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Beckii. Though you only get to the destination if you never give up. So many players stop when the first arrives. I guess there is a message in there about persistence isn’t there?
      You’re right. I don’t think the project will ever be complete. There will always be more to do. 🙂

      Like

      Reply
  2. writersideup

    Norah, there are those of us who crave knowledge and others who don’t. I have, just as you do, many interests and one lifetime will never allow for a fraction of what I would love to be able to do and experience. That’s why I have no comprehension for people who literally go to work and come home to vegetate in front of a TV or spend their weekends doing similar. They simply have no goals or drives to expand or improve their minds or lives nor the desire to affect others in some positive, meaningful way. I think that’s what it boils down to.

    Though I know my life will never be long enough to fulfill all my desires (that are ever-increasing, too), I would rather be in a state of awe and wonder with the world than to wile away the hours purposely. It’s not such a bad thing—loving to learn 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Not bad at all! Thank you for stopping by to read and comment, Donna. I agree with you. Life is just not long enough. We are born. We learn. Then we die. Oh, but I’m not ready for that yet. There’s too much learning to do. If only our lives expanded to fit in all the learning we wished to do, we could live forever! Sarah commented that if we were to stop learning, in a way we would die. I think I agree.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. writersideup

        Forever, is right! it’s what God intended in the first place 🙂 And I DO agree! Living a mentally (or physically) vegetative, sedentary life by choice is a form of withering and deterioration in the same way as if it were involuntary. I’ll never understand that choice!

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
  3. Sherri

    This is so very interesting Norah. So many times I have found that I thought I was being explicit enough, only to find that the person on the receiving end wasn’t listening properly and so my explanations were for nought! So much, I think, is taken for granted, especially when it comes to computers and software. It’s like anything, there is the small talk and the pet expressions and the cliquey sayings, but to an outsider, they mean nothing. We are somehow expected to know, but if we don’t ask we probably won’t know. But we’ve got nothing to lose by asking, and probably a lot to gain if we do! I hope that by writing this post, it’s helped you find your way a little clearer and that you have at least been able to put some fuel into your jetski to get the engine ticking over. Hold onto your vision of what you really want, as I’m confident you will get it. It’s a mix of enjoying the challenge and learning all that you are/will along the way but also I know it’s also very frustrating at times when progress seems to be so much slower than you would like. You’ll get there, I know you will… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Sherri. I very much appreciate your support and encouragement. I view writing as a thinking process. It helps me work out what I think. When I write it down and share it with others and get wonderful feedback, like your comment, it helps me to clarify even further. There is definitely a lot of learning along the way – which is fun and frustrating at the same time.
      It’s interesting what you say about questions too. Sometimes we are so ignorant we don’t realise there are questions that could or should be asked, and sometimes we might know something has to be asked but haven’t a clue what. I guess that is a quality of a good teacher – helping a learner find their own questions.
      Thanks so much for sharing and giving me a push along my journey. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. Sherri

        I view writing just the same way as you Norah, I always write things down when I need to think more clearly, it really helps. I’m so glad that I can encourage you even though I have no real answers. But it’s great to be able to bounce off one another and share thoughts and ideas as a community. You are that good teacher Norah, and you will, In turn, find the answers and clarity you seek. Time to start polishing that jetski 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
  4. Sarah Brentyn

    I agree with this: “the more I know, the more there is to learn.” Completely. I’m not sure I ever bought into the “ignorance is bliss” idea. Though…in some cases, I suppose that would be good for me. 😉 But I love learning and I am curious and usually want to dig deeper into a subject. I want to know more about it–what happened, why did it happen, who did it, what were they thinking or what made them do this? All of those questions and more. When you stop learning, you die in a way, don’t you? I mean, if there is no more growth… That’s just me. But this I know for sure: what you don’t know CAN hurt you.

    Love Anne’s comment that “the message we think we are sending out isn’t always what received.” So true. You’ll get there. We’ll be here. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks, Sarah. I loved reading your joyful reply. Learning brings such joy, and to stop learning – well, you may as well die! (You and me anyway!)
      The unknown can definitely cause one a lot of harm, just as the known can; but at least with the known you can prepare for it, or help repair. The unknown can be frightening, simply because it is unknown.
      Thank you for sharing, and for your words of support. I’ll definitely get somewhere in the end! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  5. Steven

    Welcome to the wonder of our modern society, where everything depends on something else in order to function. Think you might want to make some pumpkin soup? In order to do that, you need to depend on the farmer, transporter, distributer, retailer/grocer, banker, mechanic and the miner. The farmer is going to grow your pumpkin, the transporter is going to move you pumpkin to the distributer, another to the grocer, the banker is going to make sure that your transaction with the grocer takes place, the mechanic is going to make sure that your vehicle gets you to and from the grocer and the miner is going to dig out the raw materials used to create the electricity so you can cook your pumpkin soup. Now, the farmer is going to depend on the agricultural supplier, the transporter on the mechanic and miner, the distributer on the transporter and telecommunications technician, the banker on the security guard and telecommuncations technician, the mechanic on the miner, transporter and government certifier, and the miner is going to depend on the transporter, industrial supplier, electrical supplier, other miners and hopefully not the doctor. Now, the agricultural supplier is going to depend on the chemist, transporter and fertiliser provider, and… well I think you see my point.

    Everthing is so specialised and dependent on everything else; there is a good degree of obfuscation such that we don’t realise just how much effort is required in order to make seemingly simple things function. For all the problems in the world, it is also amazing that it operates as well as it does.

    I think of your jetski as a pioneering exploration. You are forging ahead into territory that is not regularly walked upon, a present day Columbus or Cook. That takes guts, great vision and persistence. Maybe that exploration is more difficult than expected. Maybe it seems unrealistic and maybe that journey is so great or you are so under-prepared that you metaphorically succumb. But maybe… just… you will fully or partially succeed, and the rewards will be better than you dreamed of.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Oh, Steven, you bring joy to my heart! Thank you so much for your comment. I love your pumpkin soup story. I was swirling around in there with all the different specialties, thinking “Whoa! I just wanted some pumpkin soup!” It’s a great analogy though for the variety of tasks and specialisations required for even the simplest things. And I agree that it is amazing that everything works so well; so well in fact that we don’t often notice until something goes wrong.
      Thank you for your encouragement re my jetski. “Pioneering exploration” makes it sound amazing. Tilting at windmills might be more appropriate though, since I haven’t read that book, I’m not even sure of that! You are right that I am under-prepared (or totally unprepared!) and need to pack my backpack with a whole lot of tools that I haven’t even thought of yet. I guess the learning is fun if I keep my eye on that rather than any possible discouragement. It’s all a journey and one that I am very fortunate to be able to make, or even contemplate. Perhaps that is reward enough. What is the adage: it is better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all. Sometimes I wonder about the truth of that statement, but other times I just accept it.
      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. You always lead my thinking in new directions. 🙂

      Like

      Reply
        1. Norah Post author

          Thanks, Steven. I really enjoyed the video. I’m still trying to figure out what it is telling me though. I like to think I haven’t learned helplessness. I am trying lots of alternatives in an attempt to find a way of achieving my goals. I love that he says to decide what you can or can’t change, and then realise that you can do far more than you think you can – not a bad philosophy! Once again, you challenged and extended my thinking. Thank you. 🙂

          Like

          Reply
          1. Steven

            Admittedly the video isn’t completely relevant to the blog subject or your current situation (in my completely unqualified opinion, I don’t think you are suffering from learned helplessness either). However I don’t think the video is completely irrelevant either. Judging by your response to it, I think you did “figure out” more than you realise.

            We are all our own commanders, using our own judgement and experience to decide on what we can achieve. But those of us who push further (or even persist) are the only ones who truly know their own limitations.

            Ignorance is bliss… until it comes to bite you on the backside. One day, I look forward to reading your follow-up blog to this one, entitled, “The devil is in the detail”. 🙂

            Like

            Reply
            1. Norah Post author

              Haha! I like that! I’ll have to work on that post! Thanks for the suggestion. 🙂
              I certainly did take learning away from the video. Being a self-reflective learner, I am always thinking about what I can learn, from any experience. What I learn may not always be what the teacher intended, but perhaps more related to what I need, or perhaps what I am willing to learn. 🙂

              Like

              Reply
  6. Annecdotist

    Very thoughtful post as usual, Norah. I think it’s a fundamental limitation of human relationships that, because we are all so different, the message we think we are sending out isn’t always what received. Sometimes, especially when there’s enough shared ground, that difference between people is immensely creative. Sometimes, especially as in your case when you commissioning someone to realise an idea fits in your head, it can be frustrating. How can you be explicit when you don’t know enough about website design to understand how the designer’s interpreting your instructions? And if you did understand, you probably be able to design the website yourself! I suppose it can only be a process of trial and error coming increasingly closer, hopefully, to your goal. Every trivial example that sits in my mind is when we were having a new kitchen fitted several years ago and I came home to find that they had put white edging around the tiling. I was horrified, as there was no way it matched the earth colours of the tiles, but of course they’d just made the assumption that the usual would do, not even thinking to ask if we wanted white. Fortunately it was fixable as, hopefully, your website ambitions will be too.
    But seriously, given how much you enjoy learning and your already existing computer skills, how about learning to design it yourself?

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your support, Anne, and for your anecdote about the tiles. One would have thought a matching colour would not need be requested! As you say, half the time we don’t even know what is in our own minds (well, I said that part!), but how can we expect someone else to know what’s in there too. It is a wonder there is ever a “meeting” of the minds at all!
      Thanks for your encouragement re my learning ability and computer skills. When I first set out on this journey I had thought it would be a simple thing for me to make the website, as it was making this blog, but my “needs” (wants?) are more complex. Typical! I should have started learning web design years ago! 🙂

      Like

      Reply

I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s