Learning (forgiveness)


For months since Emmett got his driver’s license, I haven’t understood why he doesn’t just drive. He knows how, after all.

This short article will explain it.

Before the pandemic, I bought a French horn and began taking lessons.

I wasn’t skilled when I began, but nobody is.

It’s not a matter of “you can’t play the French horn” versus “you can play the French horn.” Learning progresses in stages.



We are driving in Ireland, from Derry to Belfast. More precisely, I am tensely navigating in the right-hand drive Prius on narrow roads along the route from Derry to Belfast, with my family.

The Toyota’s Lane Keep Assist (LKA) warning light, its corresponding beeping, and the occasional gasp from the person sitting in the front left seat (where the steering wheel usually is for us) remind me that I’m too far on the left side of the road.

My second day of driving is much smoother, partly because I have a day’s experience and partly because I’ve figured out how to disengage the LKA.

As I enter another traffic roundabout—which goes clockwise—I again accidentally activate the windshield wipers instead of the blinker.

I both laugh and curse at myself for doing it wrong again.

And then, I realize something.

“Emmett,” I say, “I owe you an apology.”



The concept I teach that receives the most “I really wish I had learned this sooner” response is Lev Vygotsky’s stages of learning:

1. Can’t do the thing.
2. Can do the thing, but only with substantial assistance.
3. Can do the thing, but need external hints.
4. Can do the thing, but only by talking oneself through it.
5. Can do the thing fluidly, without having to think about it.

Usually, I drive at level five—fluidly, without having to think about it. However, driving on the opposite side of the road has bumped me down to level four, muttering to myself, “the blinker is on the left side of the wheel.”



“Hey, kiddo,” I say to Emmett, who is in the back seat, “I realized that just because I can drive without thinking about it doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. I’m sorry for how I’ve been pushing you beyond your comfort zone.”

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