Thursday, August 31, 2006

Attitude and Health: Bloom and Maslow

Things really got on top of me recently. Too many commitments, too little time, one or two conflict situations and no support mechanism. (This, by the way, has proved easily the toughest aspect of emigration: the loss of the extended family and network of friends.) I was aware that I was taking strain, but thought it would pass as it has before. Then, on Tuesday, I was on the phone to a colleague discussing a difficult situation facing us, when I suddenly started to shake fairly violently and was unable to stop for some time. I took myself off to the doctor who (no surprise) diagnosed stress, tension, anxiety. He offered chemicals, which I declined, preferring to find an alternative route.

So why am I sharing this obviously deeply personal information on this blog?

Well, I have found that this has all impacted my learning journey. I have continued to read the same blogs I read everyday, but I know I'm just skimming and I feel less inclined to follow the links and get the whole story. I have commented far less than usual on the posts I have read and I am aware that my comments lack depth and relevance. Posts to my own blogs have been very thin on the ground. My off-line reading has become restricted to page-turning fiction and only my unswerving passion for cryptic crossword puzzles and sudokus have seen to it that my brain gets any exercise at all.

In many respects, I recognise that I am not particularly representative, but in this, I think I am. I find myself slap bang in Bloom's affective domain, here. Without mental strength and rude good health I am not motivated and my learning is impaired. So I find myself thinking about the many, many people back home (South Africa) who live in squatter camps (informal housing settlements), or in crime-ridden suburbs. About bullied or abused people; people with unhappy homelives; people with poor diet (whether or not this is by choice); people who don't get enough sleep; people with long-term illness/pain. All these factors will impact their motivation to learn, and without motivation, all the cognitive and psychomotor aptitude in the world is wasted.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs addresses these issues as well: the fundamental needs of physiology and safety come first. Without these, a person is unlikely to feel motivated to learn.

How many teachers face the uphill struggle of trying to impart the requirements on the curriculum to children (or adults for that matter) who, for any of the reasons above are not able or not willing to learn? And even worse: what if this demotivated individual is expected to engage in learner-driven study?

There is so much more that could be said on this subject, and I recognise that I am probably limited in my ability to address them, but it's got me thinking, nevertheless.


rlubensky said...

I don't know you, of course, yet even in what you admit has been a trying time your writing strikes a resonant chord. In online collaborative learning, especially through chat or synchronous activities, where the presumption is that you have the full mettle to offer immediately, yet the demands of family and life in the adjoining rooms of your house and mind make it almost impossible. Sometimes a real lecture theatre is a fine, reflective place to escape to. Best wishes to you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks rlubensky for the good wishes and the encouragement. I am fairly pragmatic about my circumstances. It's kind of weird: while being subjectively in the grip of various symptoms, I still find myself able to stand back from it and observe the impact it's having on me. I know what's behind all the stress and anxiety and I took it on willingly (and would make the same choices again, even knowing what I know now about how it would affect me).

Patricia Roshaven said...

It appears that your brain is quietly mulling things over while you do this and that. You are experiencing an important part of the creative process. My bet is that one day your thoughts will click and you find a path better suited to you. On my Be An Artist blog (, I cover the creative process in detail.

Anonymous said...

Hi Patricia. Thanks for the steer. I have to say that I have always considered what I do to be very creative. I am deeply passionate about learning and the learning process and can't imagine ever being involved in anything else. I love finding ways to empower the learner and to provide him/her with an enjoyable learning experience.

However, I have been taxed on many fronts lately and have been emotionally drained. I am a typical woman of my time: family, full time job, additional commitments and responsibilities. Unfortunately, being an immigrant who has proved to be a cultural mismatch to my adopted home, means that I operate largely without the support of the wider sustaining network of extended family and friends. Hence the exhaustion. The impact of this on my usually instoppable drive to learn, to know, to develop, to grow has been significant.

I'm fairly philosophical about it, though, and hope to learn from the experience.

Patricia Roshaven said...

If you were to take an education guess, what would you say your unconscious would like you to do in this situation?

Anonymous said...

This is more introspective than is appropriate on this blog I think, so I will restrict myself to saying that there are times that one must choose to put other people's needs ahead of one's own, and simply learn to deal with the consequences of that choice. I cannot be dissuaded from this view.

Patricia Roshaven said...

I'm sure you will do the right thing, Karyn.