A big part of adult learning theory (most of them anyway) is connecting the learner’s existing experience to what they are trying to learn. If a concept cannot be connected to existing experience, there’s a bunch of extra work involved in helping an adult learn it. Another big part is that all adults are stubborn, dumb, forgetful creatures of habit and trying to teach them is an exercise in madness. That part of the theory is not wrong.
I mention this because experience is important. Our personal histories chart growth and change and how we all view the world adapts as we continue to learn and develop.
For most of my personal history as a driver, my vehicles had either manual windows or very simple up and down functions. I owned an ’84 Toyota Cressida which was somewhat of a luxury stationwagon back in its day. Electric windows, automatic seat belt, AM and FM radio with a tape deck! The car was amazing, but the concept of a ‘window lock button’ did not yet exist. It wasn’t until my wife and I bought our first together that we saw a control panel with a window lock button.
At the time, the button made absolutely no sense. “Why would you want to lock the windows? That sounds like a hassle. Or a really weird way to prank the passenger,” I thought. The button was never used. It just sat there like a moss covered rock.
I did not utilize the button because, in my experience, there was no practical use for the button.
That has changed.Today, I understand the purpose of the button. I was recently reminded of the usefulness of the tool.
In my part of Colorado, we spent most of last week hitting mind numbing cold temperatures. Car batteries were killed, three to four layers were not enough, people pulled out their “winter socks”, I’m pretty sure even icicles asked for sweaters. It was cold.
One afternoon after work I opted to clear what little snow had accumulated on my car off of the side windows by rolling the window up and down instead of getting outside with a scraper and clearing by hand. It was very lazy. I turned off the window lock, pushed the button to make the back windows go down and back up again without snow all over them and waited for the car to warm up.
Note that at no point did I re-engage the window lock.
The next day the family and I hoped into the car and made way for my in-laws house. Roads were clear of snow and ice so we were able to drive there rather quickly down the highway. We could hear the chilled air whir by the car, still cold enough that using windshield wiper fluid was considered with trepidation that it could possibly freeze to the window despite knowing full well it is designed to not freeze. It was just that cold.
Suddenly, the gentle whir of wind roaring over the car’s exterior gave way to a whoosh and frozen air zipped into the car. In his car seat behind the passenger side of the all too big SUV we drive, the toddler smiled. He had discovered the lock had been removed and he was reviling in the power that had been discovered.
“Dad, did you unlock the windows?” The five year old asked as his window opened. All of the warmth in the car rushed out as a parental chorus of ‘Roll up your window!” competing with the rushing wind and ever louder road noise.
A minute or two of battling for control of the windows followed. Finally, when both windows found their way back to the top I was able to hit the lock once more.
Experience taught me the importance of a little button that once seemed so insignificant. A new experience taught me the importance of remembering what we’ve learned.
Thanks for reading!