Monday, February 7, 2011

Old Dogs and New Tricks

For some reason I can't explain, I found myself musing about that expression, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks."

Maybe it was because I was driving home and let my mind wander while I navigated the familiar road, or maybe I was thinking about opening the ninth grade literature book I've never seen before. (Which came with its own class of 20 ninth graders! Imagine!) Whatever prompted my musings, I do wonder is it true we can't learn as quickly as we did when we were younger?

This dilemma was even worthy of the television show Myth Busters! Adam and Jamie busted the myth by teaching a seven-year-old dog new tricks! And if each dog year is equal to seven human years, then they taught a 49 year-old dog new tricks. Now, THAT'S impressive. Unfortunately, they didn't tackle teaching old humans.

Perhaps the "old tricks" expression is a companion to "She's set in her ways." Instead of having problems learning new things, the problem is we don't WANT to learn them? Now, I am certain that attitude can indeed be determinal to learning. When I don't want to clean house or do the laundry, I get a sudden burst of creativity and have to write! Or I see a pile of leaves I'd much rather rake than stay indoors and dance with the vacuum cleaner. The biggest evidence of this comes from teaching for 30 years - you can do your darndest, but they've got to "want" to learn - at least a little bit!

I suppose I must admit, that old dogs can make new tricks easier to learn by admitting a positive attitude will make it easier. After all, if we spent as much time "doing it" as we did "dreading it" any task would be easier.

In the end, it comes down to attitude. Now that's a Myth Buster I'd like to see! Does the wrong attitude make it harder to learn something new? Does a positive attitude make you learn faster, regardless of age? Come on Adam and Jamie! Help me out there.

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