It’s meant so much to me that over the last few weeks, many of you have emailed or dropped in to say you like my stories because they are real!

You all used that same word, too, and you have no idea how much that means to me.

I hope the stories remind us that we are all so very much alike, going through similar things, feeling inadequate way too often. Let’s stop that together!

We are all much more alike than we could ever be different.  

Here’s one that always gets me — not being able to remember everything and feeling bad about it, too. Let’s shake this one together.

This past week, I had many opportunities to listen, learn and bring back some great information that all of us can use. I’ve always been one of those "nerdy" types that loves taking classes. I even love to sit in the front of the class, which usually most people never want to do.

I think it so funny when you attend a meeting in a large conference room, a church presentation, Town Council meeting or other gatherings where something is going to be told to us and the first few rows of seats are completely empty. I always feel sorry for the speaker.

Some speakers will say before they get started, “Hey, how about if you move up to the front row.” Sometimes I feel that peer pressure of wanting to sit up close, but everyone will think I’m trying to be a goody two shoes or something.Then there are those other social times, maybe a concert and we all will rush for that front row. Maybe it has something to do with how much we trust the situation we are walking into.

I think for me it really helps me to stay focused on the person talking, the closer I am to them. The problem with classes, meetings, and all of these other learning things is that most people just assume they are supposed to remember every little detail of what they heard.

An hour meeting — a full hour of new information that I can bring back and share, remember — is gold to me. The reality is that we will forget most of what we heard or learned shortly after we walk out of the room. Think of the poor kids in school, how they must feel. We toss so much information at them in 45 minutes, they have a million other distractions going on in their world, and then we expect them to retain most of it, and somehow they do. Well, really for most of them they don’t. I got through most of school with what they call rote memory. Cram, study, pass the test, but sadly, most of what I had to study went out the window when I left the room. Not a great way to learn.

If you check the internet there are so many studies that have been done on what we remember. Basically, we retain 10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear, 30% of what we see, 50% of what we see and hear, 70% of what we discuss with others, 80% of what we personally experience, 95% of what we teach others, according to Edgar Dale.

I love to read, maybe you do, too, but I can read a few chapters, and then actually find that I have to go back and re-read it sometimes more then once so that I can pick up the pieces I missed the first or second time. I always felt horrible about that — I thought it was only me. Imagine, on the average, 10% of what you read!

Some people do have that gift of an incredible memory. You know I say this all the time, but my husband John really does. Every detail of what happened — what a blessing and sometimes a curse! You might know someone like this.

For most of us, that’s not the case, though, and I think we should rally together and stop feeling less than, or feeling like we are getting older, or too young and distracted, because we don’t remember all the information that we are suppose to take in or remember in a day. Other studies flat out say we lose at least 70% of what we learn in a day. It’s just not the way we are wired and that’s OK.

On the average, most studies say we forget 50% of what we learn one hour later! The good news is there are some great things we can do to help though, and they work. A big one is that we have to think about what kind of learner we are. Great teachers do this all the time in their classrooms and they try to mix things up to reach all of their students. Great teachers like Londonderry High math teacher Steve Tallo, who left us a surprise pumpkin with the “Pi” math symbol on it!

Visual leaners need to write things down. That is so me! I keep and take notes upon notes. That’s probably why I love writing to you each week. If you’re an auditory learner then you need to be able to hear things without other noise distractions. I’ve always drilled into my girls to re-write your notes because that’s what worked for me. It really surprises me with Mackensie though because we hear her reading her notes out loud to herself over and over again for nursing. She must be more auditory than me.

Interestingly, the way we retain the most information is by teaching someone else how to do it. That makes so much sense. We internalize it more, because we become responsible for helping someone else. Think about when you have been in training with someone. The very best way is to hear it, see it and the key for most of us is to have a chance to practice it right away.

I also have a theory that I say so often to people when they are feeling bad about not remembering things. You have to do it, and use it over and over again. Repetition. When people roll their eyes at me, I’ve started telling them it will take me at least six times of actually doing it to get it right. Seven times is OK, too. I also believe that it takes at least six weeks of doing something day in day out before you truly internalize it and feel comfortable with it, like a new job, new home, living in a new area.

Let’s just forget about it and stop making ourselves feel badly about so many things, as my mom’s best friend Emily Cimler use to say. Do you agree?

A special thank you to Sheila Bisson, who stopped in and gave me what might be the very best, "everything is going to be OK" hug ever and the gift of a beautiful card and calendar, “Women’s Wisdom,” which I will always cherish.

Sherry Farrell is Londonderry Town Clerk and a lifelong resident of New Hampshire.



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