The Struggle of Unlearning In Order to Learn

A blog post by MA in Higher Education Leadership Student Ambassador Pauline Herring

Life usually doesn’t go as planned, no matter how much we try to fill out our “life planner”. Six years ago I graduated with my BA in English and, shortly after, earned my certifications in TESOL and TEFL with the goal of teaching English abroad for the rest of my life. However, life didn’t work out that way. As such, I have found myself working towards a Master’s in Higher Education Leadership here at USD, after working in the K-12 field (both in the USA and Japan) for the past few years. While K-12 and Higher Education are both under the umbrella catch-all of “education”, they are so different in method. 

One of the most interesting challenges I face is the uncanny similarities between my past and current fields of study, and how to un-learn how I was taught to think about students. A great example of this is student development. Studying student development with children in mind, leaning toward what is happening in the home, family structure, potential disability, etc, is more likely. These are things that we are taught that can be easily pointed out and named so that we can help the student in those areas. However, when discussing student development with college-age students in mind, the focus shifts to topics more along the lines of racial issues, economic issues, gender issues, etc. Things that are more on a spectrum and difficult to describe, thus nuanced and individualized. While all these topics are important in both areas of education, I have found myself challenged with changing my mindset from “problem-solving” to “case analyzing”. While difficult, it has helped me see student development in a whole new light. I look forward (admittedly, with some apprehension) to continuing this educational journey!

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