Rite of Way

?I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.?

Albert Einstein

Rituals. We all have them. There are physical rituals (your partner brushes his teeth using a weirdly rigorous technique). There are emotional rituals (your colleague plays BTO’s ?Taking Care of Business? before every staff meeting). And there are spiritual rituals (your mother smudges her home with cedar, sage, and sweet grass before and after every family event).

And for some of us, there are even academic rituals?deliberate actions that bring us into character for a specific educational purpose.

I presume that most of you have figured out that the distance-learning gig isn’t for the weak-willed. Not only are distance students an exceptionally conscientious genus of learners (brazen compliment intended), they’re also highly adaptable and remarkably resourceful. Since most distance learners have career, family, and community responsibilities, they are also master doers.

But the ?doing? thing isn’t so easy when your body is screaming for a nap. So it is precisely for times of low-to-no energy that I created my own ritual to spark an errant academic flame. As embarrassing as it is, I freely admit to the following ritual because it works for me; these 11 steps motivate me to manifest the mindset that I require to succeed as a student.

So, here you are; my unreasonable rite of way to reason, logic, and learning:

One, turn off the phone. Two, make solo espresso or green tea rice-milk misto, as required. Three, locate beaded cat ears and place on head to pull back hair (I have also been seen wearing moose antlers, a tiara, and a flamboyant red top hat I wore in the Vagina Monologues).

Four, layer up to combat the 10 p.m. to two a.m. chills. Five, light votive candles and Tibetan incense. Six, play Hildegard von Bingen or Rammstein CD, as required. Seven, sort books and readings into strategic piles.

Eight, pat the dog that has materialized by my feet. Nine, take the helm of my ?command centre? (a.k.a. the desk). Ten, visualize successful outcome(s).
And 11, begin learning.

Silly enough? Well, let’s face it: when avidity is waning, a large part of the whole ?success? thing is simply creating a climate for learning.

I hate to badger, but the right mindset can make the difference between an absolutely divine paper and an oh-my-god-this-really-bites paper. Truth be told, motivating myself was a whole lot easier when I was in a ?regular? classroom. Inasmuch as I love the virtual classroom (I can, after all, wear a kitschy top hat), this long-distance and, dare I say it, long-suffering educational pursuit has left me so isolated and unmotivated at times that my cranium-embellished ritual has become a PFD as I drift about my own little sea of indifference.

Since there is no corporeal connection for distance education students, no face-to-face interaction with other learners to mirror our progress, many of us have had to find ways to create an appropriate climate of learning. And who determines what’s ?appropriate?? Well, you do.

In one of my AU philosophy courses I learned that philosophy moves us in the direction of wisdom, along the path of perspicacity, if you will. But (pay attention here) studying philosophy does not impart knowledge necessary to become a wise woman or man.

Right now, wherever you are, I invite you to meditate on the following bit of wisdom from Henry David Thoreau: ?If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.?

What ?music? compels you? Just as I am the creator of my academic environment, having developed motivational vices and virtues as needed, so, too, are you the creator of your environment.

I encourage you to do whatever it takes to establish the atmosphere you need to succeed as a distance student. Why not allow yourself the freedom to be a little outrageous? Tap into the source of wonder within you and get a little crazy.

My rite of way is just that: mine. What will yours look like?

I hope you allow the kindergartener in you to take centre stage. Create a ritual That’s just for you. Be bold. Be eccentric. This journey (academic or otherwise) is what you make it, so why not make it fun?

Besides, who’s going to see you?

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