From Teacher to Learner

Becoming My Own Adult Learner

by Blair Lanning, OIC, Manager of Outreach and Recruitment

After my breast cancer diagnosis and hemorrhagic stroke in October 2019, my life changed.  I now see the hand of God in every area of my life.  This is a good thing.  I was unconscious for 4 weeks and in the hospital for another month. (See the blog post A Personal Breast Cancer Survivor Story, Oct. 21, 2020) The Lord carried me through these trials and left me with some challenges.  I had to learn to walk and speak.  There were BIG challenges when it came to reading.  Until a few months ago, I didn’t do any reading for fun.   I missed reading for pleasure, but it was all I could do to get through the reading I did for my job which was exhausting. 

My Challenges

Working with adult learners who have a variety of troubles that interfere with their reading, led me to ponder ways to help myself.  I thought it might be a good idea to incorporate some of the same strategies I train tutors to use.  That’s what I did. For difficult material, I read out loud to myself.  This way, I hear and see the words. This helps my understanding when I read and hear the words at the same time.   Something new for me is that I stutter when words are longer or harder to say, especially when I’m tired.  My answer to this is to just keep plugging along and keep on reading out loud. 

There is a disconnect when people verbally tell me things, especially if it is something that needs to be done in a specific way.  I simply don’t remember verbal instructions.  How do I manage this problem?  I write things down. Recently, I’ve gotten into the habit of carrying a small notebook with me to take notes.  When it comes to higher reading levels, I reread and try to understand it myself.  Single words make sense to me but when it comes to putting the sentence together, I often have to ask for help.   

One of my greatest pleasures is to listen to audio books. They help me relax and have been helpful in connecting my little gray cells by improving my sensory memory. This leads to better understanding for me. After my stroke, listening to a story and reading it at the same time was very helpful.  It helped to increase my fluency (reading with ease) and word recognition.  There have been many times when a speaker talks way to fast, and I have to ask them to slow down and repeat what they were saying.   

Never Give UP

I am not one to give up.  I love to learn and continue to learn something new every day.  I’ve been learning French on my phone with Duolingo for almost 5 years.  Today, I have a 579 day streak with Duolingo!  This helps me improve my memory and speech, yes in English.  After the stroke, I  have to write French sentences down, read out loud, listen and use a lot of repetition.  I mean a lot!  If you are an OIC tutor, this should sound familiar.  Read, write, speak, and listen!

There was a time that I could multitask many things at once.  Now, I can only do one thing at a time and interruptions, well, they send me into a head spin.   This is when I tell myself to stop, do some deep breathing and take a moment to get myself together.  Most importantly, I tell myself not to panic…it will pass.

From my recovery, I learned what it is like to be an adult learner, because that is what I am.  In my journey to relearn speaking, reading, and walking, I realized that my old way of learning was broken.  I had to figure out ways to help my reading and understanding.  Still to this day, long complicated sentences make me take a deep breath while I am rereading them.  Sometimes with no success.  That’s when I need to ask for someone to reword it for me or take a break and tackle it later.  

God’s got me! I know things will just continuing getting better. Read on!