Most of my life as a student I had always approached learning very individualistically, even the ideas of study groups seemed foreign to me. If I didn’t understand something, I would go home, hit the books (or YouTube) and teach it to myself. Consequently, I felt very alienated in my coursework and my career aspirations and I believed I would have to wage through them by myself. I use to justify this by telling myself that I would have to first figure things out internally. How was I supposed to go and converse with others on these issues when I was still confused? It was so ingrained in my mind to see confusion as a vulnerability and I genuinely believed I would have to master things on my own to become strong and independent as I had aspired to be.
Hearing the presentation by the LaGuardia Professor Eduardo Vianna on the Peer Activist Learning Community (PALC) and the reflections of several students whom were past participants in the program definitely revamped my understanding of how one learns. In their reflections, the students shared how the program led them to redefine learning and knowledge and how because of the program, they approach learning more confidently. This program helped to remove the individualistic view school systems instill in us, one that helps to explain where alienation in learning stems from. Lucia, a student, spoke of how because “under-performing” students are usually brushed aside they failed to learn basic skills, and trauma continues to gradually grow from experiences. By the time these students reach college, learning becomes a burden, and we see why so many students are performing under their potential.
Moving away from an individualistic to a collaborative form of learning, one in which healing can be found and in which there is no deprivation of emotion, becomes necessary then. It certainly is a slow process and it will require us to remove any previous assumptions we hold, and in way learning here becomes a sort of regression. Most importantly, what this panel taught me is to reclaim agency in my learning, and not just by myself but with others, and I look forward to future opportunities to participate in programs such as PALC.