After reading the book Beginners by Tom Vanderbilt, which was the slowchathealth book of the month for February of 2021, I started to get an itch to be a beginner again and try something new. When this microblog post opportunity presented itself, I knew it was something new that I had to try, I had to be a beginner again! So here goes my first attempt at a blog post! Please be kind with your comments, I am a beginner!
In the book, Vanderbilt asks why do so many of us stop learning new skills as adults? Why do we stop learning I wondered? Is it that we are too busy teaching our children skills that we already know so the time for us to learn new skills is limited? Is it because we think we will injure ourselves if we learn a new physical skill and we are not good at it right away? Or is it because the opportunity to learn new things is seldom presented to us as adults? I didn’t care what the reason was behind the lack of learning, I was going to break through the barrier and learn something new!
I’m willing to bet that many teachers, including myself, have developed many new skills during the 20-21 school year. We have learned how to use Zoom and Google Meets. We have learned how to teach remotely and to hybrid learners. We have incorporated many new apps and websites into our teaching as well. Was this what Vanderbilt was talking about when he referred to being a beginner? Were these new skills that teachers had acquired?
As I continued to read the book, I talked to others about the topic of learning something new and I asked what they would like to learn. One person stated that they wanted to learn to weld and another wanted to learn to dribble a basketball with their left hand. But what did I want to learn? What could I add to my skill set that would inherently change my brain forever according to Vanderbilt? What skills do other teachers want to learn? What skills do students want to learn? I became almost obsessed with trying to find the answer to these questions.
After much thought and deliberation regarding what I wanted to learn, I was still indecisive. I was struggling to pick a new skill to learn. I put my thoughts on hold and began to read the next slowchathealth book of the month for April 2021 which was titled Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor. The art of breathing was not something that was new to me, I had been breathing my whole life, however the breathing exercises that are discussed in this book were new to me. Could I become a beginner at breathing I wondered? Could it help decrease the anxiety and worry that I have often felt during the pandemic and the 20-21 school year? I decided to give it a try to see if some of the breathing methods that Nestor discusses in the book would help to induce calm and improve my sleep.
Without spoiling the book for you, I want to share that the vast array of breathing techniques presented ranged from easy to very difficult. Though, as the skills were practiced on a more regular basis, they became more manageable and almost second nature. I have found myself practicing the techniques without even thinking about them. Techniques such as breathing only through my nose while exercising. This was very hard to do at the beginning but as I continued to practice the skill, it became easier for me to keep my mouth shut! I also enjoyed paced breathing and box breathing. These are breathing methods where you count as you inhale, count and hold your breath and count as you exhale. The exhale is usually the longest amount of time because research has shown that a slow exhale activates the parasympathetic nervous system, or the “soothing system”. The breathing techniques that have worked best to decrease anxiety and worry for me have been the types that have ignited this system.
These new breathing skills are just the tip of the iceberg for me. I am motivated to take new risks and challenge myself in as many ways as possible.
What new skills would you like to learn? Does learning a foreign language or learning how to draw interest you? What new skills could we teach our students? Would mindfulness or breathing techniques benefit them as much as they would benefit us?
I challenge you to try something new sometime soon and share your new skills with someone. Ask them what they would like to learn. Maybe you could even learn a new skill together! Good luck at being a beginner!
This microblog post was a featured post in #slowchathealth’s #microblogmonth event. You can search for all of the featured posts here. Please do follow each of the outstanding contributors on social media (including Katie Sayler, the author of this post) and consider writing a microblog post of your own to be shared with the global audience of slowchathealth.com
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