Learning whilst in the traditional education machine was absolute torture. A significant contributing factor to this however, was a healthy dose of dyslexia. The prevailing experience of primary and secondary school can be summarised with extreme frustration, grief and anger.
However, at about the age of 14, having been moved to a private school with smaller class sizes, a more relaxed teaching environment and extracurricular support, I (finally!) began to learn. This learning was not the content of each class but the context out of which content could be deduced. Let me try explain that: content would be factual statements – that which you are implored to memorise for exams; context would be an intuitive understanding out of which facts would appear.
Classes were easiest when in the form of group chats. Getting spoon fed information in a linear format didn’t work, nor did forced note taking during this delivery and attempted uptake of information. Reading over notes or re-writing facts didn’t make sense either. If I was stuck on an issue I had to discuss it until, as if by magic, the understanding of the context arose and content would therefore be produced. This ability was especially powerful in chemistry, biology and physics where very little or no studying was required once the understanding was achieved. (However, the understanding of context could always be improved, but this is aside from what others would consider studying.)
Although I could not read and write (to an effective level) at the time of my exams, if someone read and another wrote for me then I could answer and perform to a high level. Interestingly, if I was stuck and knew that the question demanded a simple fact with no serious mental effort, I could recall exactly where that fact was and in which jotter then recall it from a kind of emotive memory. Previously, I thought I was a highly visual thinker because of this ability to recall as if seeing a picture. However, it’s not seeing in the visual sense, but through emotion.
Introspectively, I believe that in regards to literacy, mental imagery may act as a symbol in the ‘normal’ mind which then creates a pointer towards emotions – for it appears to me that thoughts, ideas and ‘images’ follow from, or out of emotion. In this aphant mind, in lieu of mental imagery, the learning had to be in such a way that emotions were easily intuited: ie. group chats, group activity, videos, flow charts, literature (especially fiction).
University was/is impossible, not for lack of potential or ability but by the sheer inability to stay within the lanes of a prescribed course. After the age of 20 or so, when my reading finally clicked, my intellectual interests flew from philosophy to astrophysics to computer science to psychology and so on. Over the years the amount of time I spend learning on a daily basis has increased so that now, pretty much all I do is work, learn or socialise. Not having to remember facts has been very freeing, and has transformed the concept of learning – if I need to know something then it will appear, and if it doesn’t then, well… i’ll look it up or ask someone else. Simple solution.
I guess the combination of aphantasia and dyslexia has resulted in the polymath approach to learning and a social approach to life – both are extremely rewarding.
N.B. It would be nice to have a degree however, I would genuinely cry if you forced me back into a class room!