While I was away in Japan, I realized that I travel the way I read. As an English major and educator, I am embarrassed to admit that I did poorly on just about every reading quiz I was ever given. I felt the questions were always imbued with the tone of "Gotcha!" I couldn't retain the details of who said what or the order of events that occurred in a chapter. Yet, I could retain a beautiful description that stung me unexpectedly and elicited an emotional response. Recently, I've been immersed in the The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. While I still continue to forget the names of battles and characters, the description "The brush of something solid beneath my feet woke me to an opal dawn, the sea and sky both glowing with the colors found inside a shell" has stayed with me. Or, better yet, I have never forgotten the moment I stumbled across "Separation" by W.S. Merwin. He writes:
Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.
I love the titillating zing that hits me when I land in an unfamiliar environment. When I was in Japan I scurried all over the place like a caffeinated squirrel. My patient husband thoroughly read each and every plaque while I fizzed with excess energy and bounced all over the place taking photos from every angle in an effort to capture the feeling of each fleeting moment. This often caused me to stray from plaques and guides, which caused me to lean on Dan to fill in all that I missed. Not surprisingly, Dan did better on reading quizzes than I did.
I am currently wading through 2,800 photos and editing which ones I will select for my album. I am now learning more about the sights I saw because I am writing captions to go beneath the photos. I am now able to retain these details because they elicit an emotion. I can recall how I felt taking this photo and what it was like to stand before that shrine. I think this is a point educators from my childhood and adolescence missed. Emotions help us to retain and recall information. The more students are guided to relate to what they are studying or reading the likelier they will be able to retain and recall the information. This is corroborated by neuroscience and the proximity of the hippocampus (where memories are stored) to our amygdala (our emotional processor). I am passionate about the role emotions play in learning, which is one of the reasons why I recently left the classroom and launched my own company, MetaMinds.
During this week, I will post a few more ah-ha moments I experienced while traveling like when I dropped my camera and scattered some of my mother's ashes. Stay tuned!