Umm…what was I talking about? – Driz Cook

I’ll be honest here. I’m starting to forget my teaching facts. Perhaps it’s the advanced age (38), or the children running around the house (2). Perhaps it’s the multitude of items buzzing through my mind (537). Or (nod your head here…) it might be the fact that I spend a good deal of time in an office. To be perfectly honest though, I know that the root of my forgetfulness is E) None of the above. I’ve been forgetting things all of my life.

Take college for instance; right before a test I would “learn” all of the information really darn well. I would retain all of that information for all of…two or three days. Then it would mysteriously disappear, leaving me scratching my head in bewilderment. Constellations in the sky (or asterisms if you prefer…) are another example. I learned how those shiny dots connect together really well while going on summer backpacking trips in high school. Corona Borealis anyone? And then I forgot them. I relearned them again in my early 20’s after a year in the backcountry with 300 nights spent sleeping under the stars. Repeat. And repeat again.

The science behind memory and our brains is truly fascinating (I just read a long article on memory…and have forgotten most of it already). The simple truth, though, about most of our memory runs pretty much in line with the root cause of my forgetfulness: if you don’t review information you will forget information.

As a teacher, you’ve probably seen this happen many times. You learn something, get excited about the something, teach the something, and then, as time goes on in your teaching, the something just kind of drops out of your repertoire. Months or years later you’re reminded of what you used to teach and have that “oh yeah…I know this” moment. Repeat. And repeat again.

If your memory does not resemble the hard drive on your computer, and you’d like to stop this repetitive process, you’ve only got one, really old fashioned, choice. You’ve got to hit the books and review your information. Go grab a book, set aside your ego, expand your patience, and give it a try. Here we go…

Snakes. A really nice glossy book that sits in our program library. As I read through the first ten introductory pages, I realize that I do know a good chunk of the information. As a result, I want to skim through it and skip over it; this “overconfidence” will result, however, in my missing good, “relearnable”, information. Like this…”the first snakes are thought to have arisen from a group of lizards that gradually lost their legs in response to a burrowing lifestyle”. Seems you don’t necessarily need legs if all you’re doing is moving through existing holes and tunnels in the ground. I knew this, and now, because I am reviewing information, I know it again.

Driz Cook

You can only handle so much information in your brain. Even if you’re a good teacher, you will find yourself forgetting things. Most likely you will actually forget that you forgot something…it happens that often. If you take a step back here, your teaching will actually take a step up. Refresh your subject knowledge. You may find yourself getting excited about teaching old concepts all over again…

At High Trails Outdoor Science School, we literally force our instructors to write about elementary outdoor education, teaching outside, learning outside, our dirty classroom (the forest…gosh), environmental science, outdoor science, and all other tree hugging student and kid loving things that keep us engaged, passionate, driven, loving our job, digging our life, and spreading the word to anyone whose attention we can hold for long enough to actually make it through reading this entire sentence. Whew…. 

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