TURNING POINTS—Encounters that Matter in the Classroom & Beyond–You’re Both Right: A Concept From Education That Applies To Recovery

OPEN ADMISSIONS presented readers with seemingly opposed perspectives about learning that really represent the two sides of the same coin, two parts of the truth that can work hand in hand.

We’re all familiar with the “It Takes a Village” concept, which sometimes is cast as the opposite of what you might call the “I Built That Myself” approach. I taught my students about the social aspects of learning theory so that they could see how other people factor into their learning—for better or for worse. They tend to overlook the people in their lives that can help them.

I also taught them what it means to have an “internal locus of control” or a “healthy attribution style.” Focusing on factors that are beyond your control (“The teacher sucks” “the book is impossible”) is tempting. Those complaints can be real, but focusing on them doesn’t do much for us. However, when we zoom in on the factors that are under our control—what WE can impact—we get closer to our potential. Get more tutoring, work with classmates, meet with the teacher, spend hours more on the assigned work and fewer hours on a job or social media.

Some of those healthy alternatives involve other people. Perhaps combining them could be called the “I Am The Captain of My Own Ship And I Have a Great Crew!” approach.

Looking back at a piece that I wrote last year about addiction and recovery in mid-coast Maine https://www.wildriverreview.com/wrrlarge/wild-coverage/community-vs-addiction/, I see both perspectives at work in people trying to recover from addiction and in those who help them. (The featured image is artist Eric Hopkins’s work, generously shared with the Mid-Coast Recovery Coalition; the article tells his story) Individuals trying to recover must stake claim on their life not just once but “one day at a time,” as the AA expression goes. But family members, doctors, therapists, friends, social workers can play a big role in helping them. I’ve seen it, and I will share such stories in this space.

The change that people in recovery seek is a kind of learning, so why shouldn’t the social factors that impact learning in an academic setting hold here? They do. It takes individual engagement and persistence, and other people can fuel that. It’s what we do if we care. And it’s practical. Just ask someone in recovery or their boss, neighbor, family member, or citizen who cares about the economy.

Nearly two years ago, I became involved with the Mid-Coast Recovery Coalition. I showed up at the local library for a program about addiction and recovery, and met Ira Mandel, the doctor who figures prominently in the article mentioned above. Hearing people in recovery tell their stories and talk about what was working for them got me. That evening proved a turning point for me, though I didn’t know that at the time. Our lives turn in such unexpected ways. I’m still following the path that I discovered that evening, and that has led me to writing these weekly pieces. That’s why I’ve changed the blog’s name and broadened its scope. Thank you for reading, and please join the conversation.