On being a beginner, a novice, new to something

I am out of the office all week, so our Daily Deacs will be preposted, and two posts will be centered around the topic of learning. I also preposted our Weekly Message for First-Year Families, about the Do’s and Don’ts of Thanksgiving Break, which I recommend families of all years read.

One of the difficult learning moments is when you are a beginner or are about to do something new. Students in every class face the anxiety of being a learner or a beginner. Whether it is a first-year student trying to navigate college, a transfer student starting school on a new campus, a sophomore declaring their major and navigating their new major requirements and department, a junior going abroad for a semester or searching for an internship, or a senior in the midst of job searches or grad school applications, those students are navigating new terrain. They are novices. And that can feel scary.

I found (and liked) this article, Learning is Supposed to Feel Uncomfortable, from the Harvard Business Review. Here’s a taste:

While learning may not be that hard, being a learner — a beginner at something — can be very hard. Especially in a group. And especially when we see ourselves, and want to be seen by others, as skilled and confident.

In fact, being a beginner — being awkward, uncoordinated, inept — can even feel shameful. But it’s not. It’s just a stage we have to go through in order to become graceful and coordinated and competent. And our unwillingness to experience this stage can hinder our future growth.”

You can read the full article here.

It is hard to push past your discomfort and show your vulnerability in moments of learning or newness, particularly when you are surrounded by a campus full of peers whose eyes, you believe, are on you. As one of my dear friends and colleagues once told me, when I was confessing some anxiety about how I might be perceived by others: “no one is paying attention to you in the way you think they are. They are too busy worrying about their own stuff.” My wise colleague was right of course.

So if your Deacs are feeling some insecurity about not knowing how to do something, or being a novice, you can remind them to be brave. That taking steps to learn, and try, is what builds our skills. And that even if they think people are noticing their missteps – it’s more likely those people are too busy worrying about their own things 🙂


— by Betsy Chapman, Ph.D. (’92, MA ’94)

Categories: the daily deac

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