"Every student can learn, just not on the same day, or the same way." -- George Evans
Somebody had contacted me by email with some questions about plate spinning. I answered their questions. A month later I got another email from them. They said that it took them three weeks to learn to spin plates, and wanted to know how long it had taken me to learn. I replied that it took me over a year, but I had taught others to do it in as little as ten minutes. Their response was, "If I had known that it took you that long, I might not have tried."
There were other juggling tricks that I learned much faster. When I was taking juggling lessons from Randy Pryor he would sometimes say, "This is a hard trick. Don't be discouraged if it takes you several weeks to learn it." I learned some of those tricks within a few days.
Don't compare yourself to other students. It will take you as long as it takes to learn something. One reason why there is such variety in the length of time that it takes to learn plate spinning is that there is one connection that your brain needs to make for you to succeed. Plate spinning is impossible until that connection is made and it is something that cannot be forced. As an instructor I search for the switch that will make that connection for my students, but it is really something that they have to discover by experiencing it happening. Then once that connection is made plate spinning is easy. I struggled and struggled to spin a plate the first time. Then within a week of my initial success I had mastered enough tricks that I added plate spinning to my juggling act. Sometimes you just have to be patient with yourself.
(The important concept is that to start a plate spinning, the plate does not spin around the stick. The tip of the stick makes a circle the same diameter as the bottom of the plate.)
Don't be discouraged if it takes you longer to learn something than it does others. If you decide that you can't learn something because it is taking you longer, you won't learn. Sometimes a little more effort is all you need. If you give up you will never know how close you came. I was in the advanced studies program in junior high. Most of my friends in that program took typing in ninth grade because we knew we would have to type lots of term papers in high school and college. They all learned to type quickly and were often the top of the list in speed trials. I had a great deal of trouble with typing. Even though I was one of the slowest in the class I made a lot of errors. I checked typing books out of the library to use for extra practice in the evenings at home. In my year book, my teacher wrote, "Typing has really been a 'trial' for you, but you came through nicely! Your perseverance won out. Keep typing!" My teacher would be shocked if she knew how much time I spend typing now. I could not be the writer that I am without having stuck it out through that initial class to develop one of the tools of my craft.
I have been fortunate to have had some wonderful teachers. There were several of us who had difficulty in the beginning of my high school chemistry class. One of the things we had difficulty understanding was the "mole" which is a unit of measurement used in chemistry. Our instructor, Mr. Wolfe, started a "Chemistry for Lunch Bunch." We all brought sack lunches and Mr. Wolfe spent his lunch hour trying different methods to explain a mole. Finally by the end of a week we all understood the concept. We all earned an A for that semester. A year later I was Mr. Wolfe's assistant in the chemistry lab.
As a clown instructor I have tried to follow Mr. Wolfe's example. I use a lot of different methods to try to communicate concepts. I explain the theory, share my experiences, describe historical examples, lead discussions, and where appropriate provide hands on opportunities. I create written materials to support my classes. I extend the learning time outside the class period and provide individual assistance at my dealer table. Every class that I teach is different, even when I use the same outline, because the students are different and I change what I do based on how they are responding.
How do you respond if it takes you longer to learn something than others or than you expected? How can you change the way you are trying to learn? What extra effort can you make? How can you be patient with yourself while learning that particular skill?
If you teach variety arts, how can you vary the methods you use to present the information? What can you do to help those who have not understood a concept?