I have a confession to make. I am a Feedback Junkie. At least I've taken the first step towards recovery - I've recognized that I have a problem. How did I acquire this problem, or is it genetic? Well, personally I think that most things are a mix of Nature and Nurture. My personality is definitely part of the reason that I crave positive feedback and my personality is in large part determined by my DNA. But personality is also influenced by our environment and our current culture is ALL about feedback in the form of punishments and rewards.
On the plus side most of the feedback I've received in life has been positive. In highschool I was the valedictorian of my class and excelled in musical and athletic pursuits. I received an awesome scholarship and went to college where I also played basketball. I started as a math major but after one year was not enjoying my math courses or professors. And I got a B+ in a class which I was really not happy about! I switched majors to Brain and Cognitive Science and absolutely loved what I studied, even though I wasn't at all sure what I would "do" with it. At least I was able to acheive a 4.0 grade point in my major now!
I didn't really start to question my experience at all until after I graduated from college. Well actually let me back up. My Senior year I applied for "Take 5" which is a unique program that the University of Rochester offers to its students. Students can apply to take a 5th year of college tuition free if they come up with a program of study that is approved. Most students use this to expand the possibilities of what they can study. Think Pre-med student with no room in the schedule to pursue their passion for art (or something like that). Anways, I applied my senior year and of course everyone who knew me thought I was a "shoe-in" because of my academic and athletic background. When I didn't get into the program it was a huge blow to me. Looking back on it I see why I wasn't accepted and in actuality I am glad I wasn't because it would not have been the best use of my time. But it definitely hurt my ego.
Things worked out for the best though. Instead of doing Take 5 I became the grad-assistant coach for my basketball team and most of my pay was in the form of class credits. The next experience that challenged me to look at my conceptions of how people learn (which is a huge part of this feedback phenomenon) came that year. I took Science classes that I needed to get my teaching certificate. Taking freshman chemistry when you are already graduated is an interesting experience and gives you a unique perspective. It was not until Chemistry 2 that I really started questioning our system of education. My professor was German and NOT at all impressed with the American education system. His class was HARD. My first exam score was not very good. But I really liked that class. I had a breakthrough during the second exam. His tests forced you to make leaps - you couldn't just regurgitate facts. I still remember the leap I made and feeling like I could hear his voice in my head. It was so cool!
After that year I studied abroad in Spain for a semester on a scholarship. My best friend and travel buddy, Allison, made me look at my feelings about grades (feedback) more. Her attitude was much different than mine. In fact she really didn't care about grades at all! She did (I mean *does*!) love to learn though! She speaks Spanish and Japanese now, loves to cook, and just an all around amazing person!
So, some seeds had been planted. But after that I went on to get certified and teach science for 4 years. I basically was in survival mode - especially the first year. There's nothing like throwing a country girl into an inner-city 7th grade classroom! Teaching was an amazing experience, and I learned SO much. But most of the lessons actually sank in after the fact and are still being solidified now as I reflect on what I did then and the parent I want to be now.
Finally, 5 1/2 years ago my most amazing, powerful teacher entered my life - Marisol was born. She was a strong girl right from the start! And she definitely turned our world upside down - in a good way! When she was 18 months old I was reading some parenting books. (I love to read!) And I was reading some really interesting stuff about parenting without punishments OR rewards. *Then* I literally stumbled onto the idea of Unschooling in the Biography of Naomi Aldort, one of the authors I was reading. I had never heard of that word, so of course I googled it. ;-) I started reading everything I could about it and that led to the AlwaysLearning Yahoo list which is the BEST reading I have done for my family and life. Well, let me just tell you at that point in my life I didn't do that much on the computer. I basically used it for email and that's it. This idea of putting a question out into cyberspace and getting real, live people to give me answers was just THRILLING (remember, feedback junkie??) So I posted some very "newbie-ish" questions. Questions that I would be embarrassed to read now - questions that I could have searched the archives for because all of them had been answered a million times before. But I just couldn't resist the urge to post them - and then check and refresh every 5 minutes to see if anyone had responded. Lucky for me, the people on this list are amazing so they either ignored me or answered my questions with frank honesty. I tell you, I hated it when no one answered my questions! But I can see now that was because I just wanted someone to tell me the "right" answer.
Blogging is another interesting phenomenon. I started my first blog mostly to keep family and friends in the loop about our new life when we moved. But I would lose motivation when I wouldn't get any comments on my posts. I needed feedback! I am getting closer all the time to a place where I am really doing things *for* myself and not for the feedback. I still love getting feedback and it feels good to get positive reinforcement for the things I'm doing. But the motivation is different. I am now way more likely to do things because they feel good, or are good, for me and my loved ones. I still get feedback of course but instead of influencing what or why I do something it is merely the icing on the cake. Which in my opinion is a much healthier way to be and something I hope to model for my kids.
What that means for this blog is, I think I'm going to keep it up because I'm enjoying it! But please by all means leave me a comment... I can still use the love ;-)
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.