I was definitely AWOL from blogging last week, so I’ll have a lot to say this week. I have so many ideas it’s hard not to put them all in one post, so maybe there will be a couple of posts per day for a while.
We’re still in the weeds, for sure, but I guess it’s better because I’m starting to identify what kinds of weeds I’m in, if that makes sense. I’ll start posting more examples of what I’m doing (once I get my rails stylesheets working!!!) so that it will make more sense and so that by explaining what I’m working on it should help me learn it better as well.
I really want to touch on learning methodology again, though. The idea from Week 1 of Wax On, Wax Off has never been truer now that we’re really digging into Rails. I’m still having some struggles and frustrations with it, but I think it’s partly because the material is so dense and the pace is so fast and also because I’m having to relearn (or learn?) how to truly learn a skill from nothing.
I’ve talked before about how this process is so different from any other “educational” experience I’ve had. I think when a group of people really want to teach you to do something and are invested in you actually replicating what you’re learning, it just doesn’t look like 99.9999% of what passes for education in today’s world. I was really (really really) good at school, but that has not really prepared me for what this three month process is.
In “school” you learn to earn a grade or pass or test. At The Iron Yard I’m learning how to create things. It’s kind of a subtle difference, but it’s still requiring a reformatting and defragging (remember when you had to do that???) of my brain. I’ve been taught and was naturally good at spotting what information needed to be regurgitated so that I would get a passing grade. I also learned how to read a test in such a way that I could tell which answer was probably correct based on the options given and the way a test was worded.
This skill took me pretty far. I was a National Merit Scholar (sweat me, son!) and got a scholarship to college. I went to grad school and can now talk to you about cultural ideas and how people communicate and work together in teams. I can take ideas and expound on them and have great conversations.
I guess it’s more that I’m so used to the world of ideas that now when I want to actually create things, I have to relearn how to learn. I wouldn’t describe our class as “Type A” exactly, but pretty much everyone is highly motivated and I imagine that most of us were really good students in school. But it’s possible that we earned those grades based on how smart we were rather than how hard we worked or how disciplined we were.
I’ll only speak for myself here, but I’ve had to really think through my old way of acquiring information and reformat it to be able to really ingest the skill of writing code and building web apps. And the most counter-intuitive part is that the only way I can really learn this is by… wait for it… wax on, wax off. It’s about repetition.
Learning a skill like this is actually more like learning how to run a marathon (I would imagine haha). If I wanted to learn how to run that far and for that long, I would get someone who knows how to do it and have them give me some pointers and show me what their daily workout looks like. I would try what they’re doing, fail miserably at it, and then get more pointers on what I’m doing wrong and adjust accordingly, repeating this process over and over again while I build stamina.
I could ask my fictional marathon coach about the history of the marathon and when it came back into fashion to run this way and we could also talk about “gear” for days and days. But that won’t help me actually run the marathon. There is no test on how to run a marathon, there is only running the marathon.
And that’s the difference in what we’re learning now. There will be no grades, so I can’t worry about the “big ideas” or trying to fit what I’m learning into an overall setting. For this time period, there is only wax on, wax off, wax on, wax off. I see this process bearing fruit now when we look at code and I can often see what’s broken or missing and know what needs to go where, but I don’t know why. I keep getting hung up on the “why” of it all and feeling dumber than I’ve felt in a while instead of stopping long enough to say, “I don’t need to know why right now. Push on and do it! How much more do you know today than you did a month ago???”
Again, a ton of stuff I want to talk about, but this seems to be the biggest struggle. I’m used to reading books about ideas and having discussions to comprehend. But I’m learning a skill in my bones, not trying to get an A, and that’s really making a difference.