COM0011 – Blog #1 – You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

I am the old dog.

I would have disputed that statement two weeks ago when I enrolled in the Social Media program at Algonquin College.  I was excited!  I was eager!  I was going to be a student again!  I babbled with my teenage daughters like I was one of their peers.  “Look at me”, I exclaimed.  “I have a student number … and a teacher … and classmates!”

I had met with my boss the week prior to discuss the organization’s plan for incorporating social media into our marketing and communications.  After presenting a convincing case, he agreed that I would be a suitable candidate to take the lead on this initiative.  He also agreed that the certificate program would provide me with the competencies to get me started.  With my enthusiasm brimming, I registered immediately!

Yes, looking back, there was a definite pep in my step that week.  I had been given a new-found purpose to pull me from the doldrums of my seemingly comfortable daytime job.  I was about to embark on a new adventure!  I proudly pictured myself at the top of a mountain precipice with my bindle stick slung over my shoulder, staring wide-eyed at the vastness surrounding me.

But as the next two weeks unfolded, and I became immersed in required readings, introductions, course calendars and assignments, my enthusiasm dwindled.  I stumbled over terms I had never heard, and ideas I had never probed.  I read articles a second and third time in the hopes of grasping some sort of understanding of what the author was writing about.  I was quickly becoming overwhelmed.  My tail stopped wagging.

And that’s when it hit me.

I am the old dog.  And social media is the new trick.

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  The idiom repeated in my head several times.

But I didn’t buy it.

Sure, it wasn’t going to be easy.  I knew that.  But it wasn’t going to be impossible either.

I remembered how I had pictured myself at the top of the mountain, embarking on a new journey.  I thought of the bindle stick slung over my shoulder, and became aware of the contents that I had brought with me:

  1. Motivation
  2. Determination
  3. Support
  4. A Sense of Adventure
  5. An Appreciation for Lifelong Learning
  6. Perseverance

I was fearful, yes, but I was well-equipped.  And with that in mind, I stepped to the edge, and took a leap of faith.

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4 thoughts on “COM0011 – Blog #1 – You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

  1. Hi ANGELACANAVAN,

    I completed my last university degree over a decade ago, and was living what had been my dream as a long-time student by securing reliable employment and settling into a career. However, like you, I felt increasingly compelled over the years to add a few new “tricks” up my sleeve, but refrained from doing so for a considerable amount of time out of fear of failure. Similar to your situation, back in 2012 I was presented with an opportunity to take a work-related part-time course on campus at Algonquin that forced me to take the plunge and deal with my insecurities. Rest assured, I was overwhelmed at first and doubted my ability to, for example, successfully do something as basic as retain information for quizzes and exams, but it all worked out quite well in the end.

    This past year, within another context outside of part-time college studies, I resumed lessons in a discipline that I had not practiced since January 2014. Since it involves a physical activity requiring strength among specific muscle groups, I was worried that because I hadn’t really used them in quite some time, that I had “lost” them, so to speak. I was completely intimidated making a second attempt at this activity and was very upfront about this with my new instructor. However, when I shared my concerns with her, she responded with, “Well, you successfully did X, Y, and Z before, did you not?”, to which I confirmed that I had. At that, she quickly reassured me with her view that, “Well, if you were able to do X, Y, and Z before, then you know that physically you can do those things; so unless your circumstances have drastically changed, your body should have no trouble training itself to do those things again”. I agreed that she had a point. If you successfully completed academic studies before – and your previous experience involved learning new terms and concepts with which you had not previously been familiar – then you should have no trouble succeeding this time around.

    The joy of education is in learning new things. One might argue that it would be a waste of time to enroll in a course or program for which you were already familiar with the content. I am in my late thirties, but am taking the “Introduction to Social Media” course because unlike many of my peers, have not entirely embraced social media. At first I was a bit embarrassed to admit to colleagues and friends that I had to take a college course as my icebreaker on how to use web tools that were second-nature to many of them; but rather than mock me for doing so, they commended me time and time again. With or without their endorsement, at the end of the day, it would have been a disservice to me to not pursue my interests and embark on this journey to better myself.

    Someone once said that “the difference between an adventure and an ordeal is attitude”. You seem to have a wonderful attitude towards your studies, so I hope you continue to find ways to embrace this new adventure on which you have found yourself and I wish you all the best along the way!

    • Thank you Marissa, for sharing your own experience. Fear of failure can limit our experiences and achievements for sure. Moving through that fear, and recognizing that you can, is so empowering and freeing! I wish you all the best as well.

  2. Hi Angela – I appreciated the authentic humanity that came through in your blog. Even if you consider yourself “the old dog” you seem to have the right attitude and disposition towards “learning new tricks”. And THAT is everything. Please don’t give up. You have an authentic and sympathetic writing style that can connect with people. And CONNECTING with people is what Social Media is all about! 🙂

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