Learning to Unlearn

I’ve been struggling with my learning project as my semester is bogging me down. I’m struggling to find time to cook. I made a promise to myself that until the end of classes I would no longer eat fast food (which, I’ll admit is a little ambitious). I did well today by quickly throwing together a bunch of snacky foods for lunch before work. I ate cheese on crackers with grapes for lunch, but I’m finding that with the extra exercise added to my daily routine, that I’m just not satisfied. I am being cognizant of the foods that I eat and my portion sizes on my choices (especially those that I don’t deem to be quite as healthy).  I think my struggles are also due to the fact that I am unlearning. While I’m a little foggy on the idea of ulcers, I think that Jack Uldrich makes a great point in his Ted Talk:

“To attain knowledge, add things everyday; to attain wisdom, subtract things everyday”

“In order to prosper in the future, we’re going to have to unlearn”

Unlearning is adapting to new situations. I learned how to fend for myself through eating fast food as I traveled between my parents houses, work and school. Now that I am older, and am starting to try to take better care of myself, I have to unlearn the habits, cravings and patterns that I’ve created. For me, if I can’t find something accessible in the fridge or pantry in a matter of seconds (usually that takes less than 5 minutes to make) then I get fast food. Now that I’m making a conscious effort to try to SLOW DOWN and take time for things that are important (like taking care of myself) and things that I love to do, I feel compelled that one of the first steps in this journey is unlearning my bad habits of unhealthy eating. I find unlearning more difficult and more reflective than learning because you have to constantly be aware of what you are doing. As I move into a busy season in my life I’m finding it hard to strip away from the things that I was doing because I have less time to reflect on what I am doing. I also find that unlearning is constant practice. It’s much less memorization or I do, we do you do or other learning tactics. It’s less transferring knowledge and more reflecting and making decisions.

I’ve been interested in the process of unlearning for a while now especially in regards to my social justice practices of reflection, deconstructions and actions. I didn’t even really think about it until about halfway through this #learningproject that I was unlearning. I wanted to know more about this process and so I was learning about unlearning on the internet and I found some great inspiration and wisdom about unlearning. Being such a huge social justice advocate, this is definitely a process that I want to encourage in my classroom through reflection and critical thinking. “Learn, Unlearn and Relearn: Stay Current and Get Ahead” by Margie Warrell boasts about unlearning but I think this article makes a great point. Both Warrell and Uldrich connect wisdom and prosperity with unlearning.My view is less concerned with business.I make connections between unlearning and social responsibility and my holistic health. I had to strip things from my life and unlearn the ingrained thoughts that I’ve had to continue with this learning project. “How to Fix Bad Food Habits” highlights just some of these thoughts. I really struggle with portion size because I was taught that I needed to eat everything on my plate. Another ingrained thought that I had is that dessert can only be certain (unhealthy foods). I equated treats with bad days to help bring me back up and with rewards for good things. I love vegetables, but I started to believe that I shouldn’t eat them as a snack because I didn’t consider them a grab-and-go food (which they certainly can be – it just takes some effort).

I have known for a long time that I would bring critical thinking, literacies and reflection into my classroom, but this unlearning project has reinforced the need for this in my class. Unlearning takes students beyond the classroom and helps students make connections through careful reflection. I want my students to be able to apply what they have learned outside the classroom so unlearning, while not explicit in my philosophy, underpins every idea that I have towards education. In closing, I will echo the quote by Alvin Toffler at the end of “Learn, Unlearn and Relearn”, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”. Being an English major, I definitely promote reading and writing but I think doing this through a critical lens is paramount to not only getting to know ourselves but also helps us attack the Big Ideas and Essential Questions in the curriculum from a variety of perspectives.

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