Ruminations from Lockdown
During these times, I, along with the rest of the world, have been watching an inordinate number of movies. For some reason, I have found myself gravitating (ahem) toward space movies. I’ve watched Alien, Aliens, Avatar, 2001, WALL-E, and more, and around the fifth interstellar-themed movie, I figured out why.
We are all in space right now.
Think about it: every day is indiscernible from the next, we can’t go outside without putting ourselves at risk, and virtually all of our contact with the outside world is done through futuristic video phones. Struggles with isolation and a complete departure from the ordinary are essentially what we are all experiencing right now. Instead of asking ourselves, “How do we learn through Zoom this year?”, we should be asking, “How do we learn in space?”
Create a Learning Area
Back on Earth, it was painfully obvious where we were supposed to learn and where we were supposed to relax. There was typically a car ride between the two areas. Here, in space, the mental boundaries are blurred because we are relaxing and working in the same room. This means we need to sharpen our mental boundaries and designate a new area for learning. In space, we don’t have much room to play with, so we need strict rules.
If you have one corner of your room with a desk, only study when you’re sitting at the desk. If you want to take a break to watch some Netflix, leave the study area and watch on a couch or in your bed.
Conversely, don’t study while lying in bed! Your brain already associates couches and beds with rest and relaxation so you will not be operating at full capacity if you attempt to be productive in these areas. Once your brain has reestablished its “learning zone” and “rest zone,” you will find it much easier to be productive. You will be able to sit down in your learning area and flip into “productive mode” without even trying.
In space, paradoxically, there isn’t much space. Spacecraft are compact metal mazes that don’t allow for a comfortable yoga session. In response, spaceship engineers have to be incredibly efficient, packing everything necessary for a space mission into a giant Coke can.
Similarly, you need to make efficient use of your home learning area during these times. Get some folders and sticky tabs, and color-code everything. Utilize the tools available through smartphones to stay on top of assignments and keep track of personal goals. Psychological research has shown that the key to success is clearly defining your goals and then mapping a route to get there. Everyone has their own system; just make sure you have a system and stick to it. In space, something can go wrong at a moment’s notice, and it’s nice to know where everything is.
Stay in Contact with Friends
The silent challenge in space is loneliness. Your crewmates will inevitably drive you insane or act too nonchalantly about bringing an alien lifeform onboard, and you will miss your friends back on Earth. This is normal, and it is okay to miss the way things were, but it’s also important to talk to people “outside of the ship”. Many of your friends are feeling the same way you are. Even though talking over futuristic video phones doesn’t compare to an in-person interaction, it’s much, much better than nothing.
Learning is a collaborative experience, so set up some study groups to meet a few times a week. These sorts of get-togethers allow for the chance to catch up and to learn along the way.
It’s also important to take some spacewalks and take a look at the majesty of the universe that surrounds you. Cliché, I know, but space is pretty cliché. The missions are all more or less the same, and the issues faced along the way are (ahem) universal. The tasks of furthering your education and intellectually thriving in such challenging circumstances are daunting but doable, even if it feels we are light years away from the ordinary.
And if you think you could use some additional help in achieving your learning goals this year, reach out to Mindfish by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling at 720-204-1041 to learn more about our virtual academic support options.