Reflection: What I Have Learned from Penn Students
A Learning Specialist’s Reflection: What I Have Learned from Weingarten Students
Returning to student life this Fall after over a decade was a humbling experience for me. Although I reveled in all of the opportunities and resources on Campus and the intellectual stimulation of my classes, I also came close to tears trying to figure out the EZ-Borrow system for a book I needed and ruined my favorite pair of shoes trudging through a flooded walkway because it was the only way I knew how to get to class.
Although I began my position as a Weingarten Learning Fellow (one of several doctoral students in the Graduate School of Education who works as a Learning Instructor) with learning strategies based on my own academic training and life experiences, I soon realized how much I take away from students. I continually find our one-on-one sessions and workshops an opportunity to find out about new tech tools and resources on Campus, talk through different exam preparation and writing strategies, and about a million other things!
Coming from a 9-5 office-type schedule, I originally had a tendency to try and study for five or six hours at once, without taking more than a 15-20 minute break to scarf down my lunch or make a phone call.
One thing I have learned from being able to work with so many students on their own schedules is the importance of taking meaningful breaks throughout the day, whether it’s lunch with a friend, going to the gym, or taking part in a club or activity that you enjoy.
I am proud to say that I now work for only two or three hours at a time, and then enjoy a long walk with my dog or a mindful lunch break where I actually sit computer and phone free to enjoy my food. I also try to embrace the student mindset of continuous learning and reflection, and I gain courage from so many of our resilient students who bounce back from failure and are willing to try again.
By Staff Writer: Jennifer Kobrin, Learning Fellow
Reflection: The Necessity of Failure
Are you afraid of failure?
I am. At times, terrified.
Have you ever felt like a failure?
Countless times. More than I’d like to admit.
Do we talk enough about failure?
That last question is a tricky one. There isn’t a lack of literature about failure, especially when it comes to organizational failure, performance analysis, process improvement and case analysis.
What is more needed in educational contexts, especially in highly selective higher education environments like PENN, is open discourse about failure. I once heard about a college professor who kept a copy of her curriculum vitae along with a comparatively voluminous 3-ring binder of her failures. Another college professor posted all of his rejection letters along his office walls for plain view. In both instances, the professors intentionally revealed and shared their academic and professional vulnerabilities, inviting conversation with students about success that did not preclude, but preempted failure.
Failure can be predictable or unpredictable, but often unavoidable.
Failure can be policy-centric, process-centric, technical, relational or communal, but always feels personal.
Failure can occur in the context of uniformity, inadvertent oversight, contention, change, and complexity: Context Matters.
In order to nourish that which can only be seeded, sprouted, grown, and blossomed through failure, focus on the specific type of support that you need in each step of the failure-to-success process:
a confidant? a shoulder to cry on? an empath?
a relative? a friend? a colleague? a neighbor?
a devil’s advocate?
an accountability partner? a supervisor? a guide? a counselor? a therapist?
how about a failure mentor?
Know that you’re thoroughly equipped with all of the personal, academic and professional attributes, wisdom and discernment, to design and navigate through your failure to growth pathways. Be good to yourself. Embrace failures, like successes, as stepping stones to your journey.
At the Weingarten Center, we are committed to supporting you through all of your academic successes, failures and things in between that come to mark and shape your wonderful, authentic and humane self.
By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Fellow