Ahhhh March Break. A respite from the painful 9-3:15 of having knowledge shoved at you period after period by teachers who care about your enjoyment of said knowledge, and sadly, many who don’t. For many, this is a time to finally take a brain break, to spend your time guiltlessly on Netflix marathons, gluing yourselves to your iPhones, and oh hey – actual extracurricular activities like swimming and skiing and like, talking to actual people in real life! And then after a week (or two for you lucky pay-more-for-less-school private kids), it all ends, and you go back to the dreary process of LEARNING, ugh gross blecccchh what could be worse than filling your mind with fascinating new information that you DIDN’T KNOW BEFORE?!
Okay well when I was a teenager, I didn’t feel that way.
The problem is that learning has REALLY gotten a bad rap. Like, it’s out of control. I say the word ‘learn’ or ‘think’ to a teenager, and something seriously frightening happens – like, this eye-roll into the backs of their actual SKULLS and a disgusted “UGHHHHHHH” that might last anywhere from 3-32 seconds, followed by this thing they do where they mush their fingers into their eye sockets and pull down the bottoms of their eyelids and sort of contort their faces into ghoul-like masks. It is NOT a pretty sight. Am I concerned about my students’ resemblance to the cast of The Walking Dead at the mere mention of the learning and application of new knowledge? Yes. I am. I don’t know what it is they’re conjuring when they hear the word ‘learn,’ but it certainly isn’t the same as what I associated with the word when I was in high school.
I think that part of the problem is that students tend to equate learning with a few rather unattractive synonyms. I shall list them here:
- Good grades
- Falling apart
- Smelling like paint
This is based on actual, real-life experiences I have had with students who have said each of these words. In real life. To me. (I think those last three actually refer to the insides of students’ schools which in turn they associate with learning – either way, when a student refers to ‘learning’ as ‘falling apart,’ we’ve got a problem.)
When I was a teenager, like every kid I loved March Break. But I loved the end of March Break just as much. I know this fact is difficult to digest and believe, but it’s the truth. Okay, when I was in my I-hate-school-and-need-to-move-to-Hollywood phase, I hated the end of March Break. But once I got over that, that’s what I’m talking about. The end of March Break signaled the beginning of spring. The days were longer, the air was sweeter, and patio weather was possible at any point. What this really meant for me was that my love for learning could expand beyond the confines of my classroom, local coffee shop, or bedroom. The city was my educational oyster, and I its willing pupil!
Part of the reason I loved learning was that I loved studying. I loved feeling like this important person who had all of this important information to learn and dissect and organize into detailed notes in order to make sense of. And I liked it because I think it just made me feel important, like one of those business people that’s always carrying around a briefcase of really important papers and like, scribbling illegible notes all over them frantically, as though at the risk of losing some very epic and potentially world-changing revelation. Or maybe I’m just thinking of The Imitation Game. Whatever. But part of the whole feeling I had was that of this society I imagined where everyone was running around doing incredibly important things; and I wanted to be one of them. Call me an old soul, call me a narcissist, either way, this led to me developing a love for learning – and especially, a love for exhibitionist learning. I have carried this desire to be a functioning member of society with me to this very day, employing the same methods to carry out my work as I used when I was in high school. WHAT methods, you ask? Well, this is the part where I impart my wisdom on you in list form and provide you with a variety of ways in which you too can reposition learning from “pointless” to “powerful,” and from “asbestos” to “AWESOME.”
- Get into exhibitionism. Contrary to popular belief, this does not necessarily entail getting naked. So please keep your clothes on. In fact, clothing is a critical part of this piece of advice. What I’m talking about is getting out of your messy bedroom or lame-o library, shedding your sweats, and dressing the part. Get yourself into whatever outfit screams “I am SUPER IMPORTANT and have SUPER IMPORTANT things to do so GET OUT OF MY WAY” (think: Elle Woods, Cher Horowitz, Chuck Bass…you get the gist), pack your bag full of school supplies, and go somewhere to study that is right in the heart of the public eye. You want to essentially create a situation where if TMZ was skulking around doing a piece on “super important celebs doing mysterious yet super important things,” the paps would be alllll over you. That’s what we’re going for here. Which leads to my next point.
- Find your Chateau Marmont. In order to FEEL important, you need to feel surrounded by important people. Well guess what? Important people are not hanging out in your dining room or local library. The search for the perfect study space is a tough one, but was always, and continues to be, my absolute favourite part of the study process. You know what they say: location, location, location! And by ‘they’ I mean Real Estate agents. Forget the usual suspects and find yourself a hipster coffee shop, fancy lunch spot, or the latest trendy fro-yo place (or whatever new frozen desert is currently trending, I can’t keep up) to set yourself up at. Think outside the box! The ‘ideal study spot’ checklist is long and nuanced and most likely requires a post all to itself, but things to check for include: wifi, comfy chairs, non-wobbly tables, and snacking potential, the latter being the most important; nothing kills a good study buzz like hunger! Whatever you do, find somewhere you can’t wait to set up your pseudo-office at, and get pumped to be the shining star who you know that everyone around you will shortly begin to envy.
- Get your squad in check. When I was in high school, my friends and I had a totally tight study squad. We would all meet up at Sweet Surrenders, this incredible place that exclusively served giant slices of cake and ridiculously decadent beverages, and we would study together for entire evenings. It was SO MUCH FUN. I know what you’re thinking: nerd alert! Whatever, please. What could be more fun than passionately arguing over the right way to solve a trig identity over a slice of chocolate spice mocha cheesecake? NOTHING. Forget your friends that just want to gab and take a trillion selfies instead of hitting the books – they’re useless to you now. Assemble the right squad, and make this your thing.
- Slap on that SPF and get some sun. This is actually why I started writing this in the first place! My romantic notions of March Break ending just as sunny spring weather begins, while empirically inaccurate, remains an oasis of hope for me. In Toronto we definitely have those freak days where it’s like, 7 whole degrees in FEBRUARY (which is insanely hot for Toronto in the dead of winter) and everyone loses their MINDS, slaps on a pair of short shorts, and you legit can’t get a seat on a single patio because they are all RAMMED because guys, we’re Canadian and we’re hardcore. Likewise, after March Break I totally remember those freak 17 degree spring days that would inspire me to head to my favourite park, set up shop at a beat-up picnic table, and get to work with the air of one of those brooding souls who thinks she might be the next Buddha, sitting under the tree of life (read: some rando maple tree) percolating upon her Finite Mathematics textbooks. Studying in the sun can make SUCH a difference. Nothing is falling apart. There is asbestos nowhere.
- Act the part. You brain is a muscle yearning for the fruit of knowledge. Your heart hungers to learn, search, explore, master. You have a bag full of books containing an infinite amount of unknown facts waiting to be known. You have a mission. You matter. YOU ARE VERY IMPORTANT. NOW GET OUT THERE AND LEARN SOMETHING.
In summary, Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘learning’ as “the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being taught.” There is literally NOTHING bad about that definition. Not one thing! That being said, just like ‘working out,’ it’s really up to YOU to make learning fun instead of painstakingly boring. I mean, you could be one of those dudes that’s constantly grunting at the gym while repetitively lifting a giant piece of metal over and over to exhaustion…OR you could take a super fun Beyoncification class and DANCE yourself into a frenzied sweat! Similarly, you could lock yourself in your bedroom, studying until the crack of dawn like a crazy mole child who’s never seen the light of day, or you could swagger over to your fave Starbucks with your friends, and study in style. It’s really up to you. Do you want to be Beyonce? Or a MOLE CHILD???
So here we are. It’s March break. I’m on a beach. And I’m reading academic journal articles FOR THE FUN OF IT. Attribution theory and girls’ attitudes about math? Can’t wait to hear more. Parents’ influence on children’s gender roles? Hit me up. The correlation between gendered toys and math anxiety? PLEASE TELL ME ABOUT IT. Learning is something I miss when I don’t allocate time for it, and now on March Break, when most of you are taking a ‘break from learning,’ I am happily soaking up new information at the speed that my SPF-15 covered skin (not enough, I know, sorry mom!) is soaking up the rays. I only hope that you can use some of this advice to find a way to fall in love with learning as I have – it will change your life. And for those of you legit watching me right now to the left – yes you three who have been taking selfies for like, 2+ hours - stop adding me to your “losers at the beach” snapchat story and go read a book. Posers.