I had an epiphany in my last year of university.
It was in the Life Sciences Centre of Dalhousie University. The LSC, as it is known, is a concrete monolith that is home for all of the classes and labs for biology, psychology, earth sciences and oceanography.
Walking between classes I was stopped and asked for directions to a pay phone. (To my young readers, this is before phones were surgically attached to bodies.) Not thinking what I was doing, I shut my eyes and described the way to a bank of phones in the basement.
The man said, “Thanks, great details. You are obviously a visual learner.” (Ironically, if I close my eyes I can still picture him clearly.)
I knew about the different types of learning, but had always thought about it as something applicable to people with learning difficulties. You know, kids who don’t do well just listening to the teacher but learn best by seeing things.
On that day I realized this same description also applied to me. I was a very good student, took all honours classes in high school and got great marks – but I had distinct weaknesses.
I liked math when it was algebra or geometry but I loathed it when it was abstract. I could never understand how my classmates seemed to get calculus concepts so easily. (Hey, Sandy… do you remember studying for the Grade 12 final with me? Brutal!)
In physics, I loved the mechanical but struggled with the theoretical. As a team, my friend and I would kick butt in the annual Science Fair because of our different strengths. I was good at building the apparatuses we needed to conduct experiments and she whipped off the calculations to prove our theories.
Still not sure of my life’s path, I took a full science load in my first year at Dal. I passed all my courses and received great marks but I never wanted to see calculus, physics or chemistry again. It was clearly the Life Sciences for me.
What was I talking about? Oh yes, visual learning…
So, what does this actually mean in terms of life skills? For me, this penchant for description and concept visualization has lent itself nicely to teaching.
In tennis, I was a much better coach than I was a player. In officiating, I loved running seminars and providing practical reasons for the rules rather than just expecting them to be learned by rote. These days I love answering a patient’s question with a full and detailed answer.
It also means that I am highly motivated by graphs.
If I’m running, I chart my kilometres. If I’m writing long fiction, I chart my word count. If I’m dieting, I chart my weight loss.
I love to see an obvious pictorial trend towards the positive.
It’s no different with my blogging. Look at that clear linear change!