The Learning Doorway is my answer to an overwhelmed medical student's plea for help.
In 2002, I returned to graduate school as a “mature” student to earn an MA in Writing with an emphasis on Publishing. Throughout my two-year program, I also taught Writing Composition courses to undergraduate students.
During my last quarter in grad school (Spring 2004), Leila, one of my students, introduced me to a friend of hers. She was a native of Iran, but her English was excellent. In fact, she had regularly received straight A’s while earning an engineering degree from Oregon State University.
After receiving her BS, the woman decided to follow her dream of becoming a doctor. When I met her, she had just completed her first year of medical school, and she was so stressed she was ready to quit.
She said that all she did was study, but it wasn’t enough. In fact, when taking exams, her brain became so foggy that she could no longer understand the questions—even when she knew the material cold!
The woman asked if I knew any techniques that would help her learn better. I knew there were tools and techniques “out there” that could help her, but I didn’t have any at my fingertips to give her. My graduate school program in Writing was no different from the vast majority of programs in academia: It made me a subject matter expert, not an expert in the psychology of learning and teaching.
In an effort to help her, I contacted several medical schools, certain they would have programs that taught their students how to deal successfully with the overwhelming stresses and learning requirements of medical school. However, my questions met with blank stares and incomprehension. Apparently medical school is still a sink or swim proposition.
Then I remembered my fascination with Accelerated Learning (AL) techniques when I had taught English as a second language years before. I knew that AL practitioners incorporated music, games, role plays and laughter into the curriculum in order to bring joy to the learning process and alleviate stress.
Therefore, I tracked down the website for the International Alliance for Learning (IAL), the professional organization for educators who apply AL to their teaching. I discovered that a 4-day training was being offered that June, so immediately after graduating, I flew from Portland, Oregon, to Houston, Texas, to participate in the first week of a 3-week training leading to Level I Certification in Accelerated Learning.
Soon after completing this training, I was invited to join IAL’s Executive Board, where I served for the next four years. I loved working on the board because I met and learned from expert teachers, corporate trainers and educational entrepreneurs from around the world who are working passionately to transform human potential through learning.
IAL’s emphasis is on creating teachers and corporate trainers who can apply AL techniques in the classroom. Unfortunately--although AL began over 40 years ago--few professors, teachers and trainers have ever heard of it, much less been trained in its methodologies.
But I am still haunted by the plea for help in the woman’s eyes and the exhaustion in her voice. I cannot wait until more of the world's teachers discover Accelerated Learning and transform the learning process. There are so many wounded learners out there, so many people who are stressed and discouraged, at a time when the ability to learn for a lifetime has become more critical than ever.
Another aspect of this subject that motivates me is the aging of the babyboomers--of which I am one. Thanks to rapidly-expanding research, scientists now know that the brain has plasticity and can change and grow throughout our lifetime.
Knowing that we have the ability to learn for a lifetime is not only important for continual growth in our careers in a global marketplace, but also for our health. For example, one study in Canada found that continually learning challenging new material as we age helps to protect us from the ravages of dementia. (For more information about this study, go to:
Healthy Aging and Learning)
This means that the LAST thing we should do when we retire is just play a few rounds of golf at the club or sit and watch TV.
Our brains need rigorous excercise and challenge as much as our bodies do.
They thrive when we go back to college, do the New York Times crossword every day, learn to play the guitar, study a foreign language, or experiment with some of the new brain fitness software programs.
My mission for Learning Doorway, therefore, is to bring together the latest information, tools, techniques and strategies on brain-based learning.
I want to make the information immediately available online so that people can access and use it wherever in the world they may live.
This is why I plan to publish e-books on various aspects of learning and to create a forum in which people can come together, share questions, ideas and solutions, and empower themselves to learn and create for a lifetime—-whether they are 20 years old or 80 years old.
I don’t remember the name of Leila's friend, and I have never seen her again. I was unable to help her in her time of need, and for this I am sorry. Although she does not know it, however, she changed my life!
My hope is that the information presented here will help you change yours.