Reflecting on learning and seeing the world in exciting new ways.

Archive for March, 2012

Eating an elephant

How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.

We’ve all heard the quote and have probably all lived it at some stage in our lives. I’m currently in the process of eating an elephant, but this elephant is a sneaky one; just when I finish as many bites as I can possibly manage in a day (maybe more!), the elephant grows a little bigger. It doesn’t always wait until I turn my back before growing again, either. In fact, sometimes it grows right in front of my eyes!

While I was in the final two months of writing my masters dissertation, I had many sleepless nights wondering just how I was going to get through everything that needed doing in order to produce a worthwhile 25,000 word document in the ever decreasing amount of time I had left. It was then that I first stumbled across the elephant quote and it sustained me during those final months. Every night that I went to bed after studying well into in the wee small hours of the night, I told myself I had eaten some more of the elephant. It worked for me.

I was reminded of the elephant quote again earlier this week while talking to a student. Now, this is a part of my job that I absolutely love. Interacting with learners by distance is a little more difficult than in a face to face teaching environment but I find it extremely satisfying. Whether we are talking on the phone, via email or communicating in an online forum, interacting with learners is one of my favourite parts of the day.

This week, I had a call from a student who was panicking about his current study workload (which certainly was heavy). This was on top of holding down a full time job and being a dad to children aged six months and two years. Oh, and his partner had just gone back to work this week after finishing maternity leave. Sound familiar? Time was certainly running out for the courses he was enrolled in, but he assured me he was determined to complete them to a high standard.

We chatted for a bit then broke down the tasks he was facing.  What had he done so far? What could he get on to straight away? When could he send the first part of his work to me? When would he have access to the supporting materials and resources required for the other topics he needed to address? We set some time management goals, reassessed some of his learning programme, made an agreement to communicate regularly and then I followed up our discussion via email. As we said goodbye, I realised I’d helped him plan how to eat his elephant.

So back to ‘my’ elephant. It is not a breed that can be successfully eaten, but I’d be happy to just keep it at a manageable size without growing too much and causing indigestion. It’s going to take some serious bites and quick digesting to keep up with its rate of growth (I think we call that ‘evenings, late nights and weekends’) but I’m determined to not let it wreak havoc across the entire forest. Can someone please pass me a fork? 😉