Challenged to keep an independent reflection journal, my current AU course (NURS 623 – gracefully instructed by Dr. Barbara Low), posed the question, “how does it feel to be in the role of the learner”? At first glance, this question was a simple one that I could journal in a few quick minutes: nervous, excited, and at times overwhelming. However, upon initiating this quick reflection, it proved to be a heavy concept that is too easily oversimplified.
As many of you reading this already know, a few words are not adequate to describe the way it feels to be in a new role as a learner. Nor can my learning journey be proficiently articulated in a sentence. It was more than any adjective could offer. Some of the most grateful experiences I have involve being in the role of a “learner”—even if I was the role of a “teacher.”
As a keen volunteer, I have learned more from the vulnerable populations I have had the privilege of working with than I could ever have taught. In my profession, my clients and their families have their footprint in the momentum which shaped my professional identity and values. My amazing children and husband have taught me deeply meaningful insights into who I am. It appears I have always been a “learner,” but now, as a student, I am a “formal learner.” My identity as a student is as an extension to who I am—my professional aspirations. This aspect is terrifying since my future aspirations are guided by my natural characteristics, talents, and long-term goals. Therefore, the role of a “formal learner” may dictate the level of congruency between that of which I aspire and that which I can attain. It involuntarily places a deep reflection on whether I have the ability to do this. I scan the general course goals, amazed by the complex and exciting opportunities that will await any successful learner. I rush to articulate how the assignment structure will build upon my skills and am profoundly intrigued of how this course will strengthen my contributions towards my aspirations. The magnified influence that I could potentially have toward the vulnerable populations I volunteer with, the intensified difference I could make for my clients and their families, and the insightful dialogue that would be ingrained into my professional lens.
The anxiety is refreshingly replaced with motivation and excitement. The deep reflection is reassuring, as I am reminded of my perseverance and the endurance that ripples from the significant dream I have held for ten years—the very reason why I find myself a formal learner and an AU student.
With my eager persistence, enthusiasm, and dedication to my studies, I can only be grateful for the student-work-family balance that an online distance education University can offer. I am consistently impressed by the innovative use of communications technology available to enhance my learning and collective networking opportunities. To trust in myself, my online peers, supportive educators, and resource-rich university will be some of the most powerful strategies to propel me through my learner role. The ability to resist regressing inward when intimidated by the journey ahead, and instead to focus on stepping one foot in front of the other—to progress my developing momentum—will be a challenging feat.
My quick assumption that turned into a deep reflection inspired me, and I hope that where-ever you find yourself, in whatever roles, that you feel a connection to this shared experience as a learner. That you know that you are not alone, we are all in this together, pressing forward.
In gratitude, Nichole Parker