How To Be a Lousy Learner
As a Linux trainer, I've seen a wide range of students. Some already have a lot of experience with Linux, some have no experience at all. That isn't the most important indicator that a student will be successful. Even in an advanced class, with a little hand holding a newbie can survive and learn new skills. In my experience, the most important factor is not how much experience a person has with Linux, it is how the student approaches learning.
Many guides to effective learning already exist. They're boring. Almost anyone could write one. Instead, I'd like to share with you the secrets of some really lousy students I've known.
- Don't bother checking the prerequisites for a class. They're only recommendations. The training company probably just wants more money. If you need to know something for the class, just ask a few questions and the instructor can quickly teach you what you need to know.
- Training is expensive. You deserve to get what you paid for. There's nothing wrong with trying to monopolize the instructor's time. Life is a contest, if the other students aren't willing to fight to get what they paid for, that's their problem.
- Don't push yourself too hard. Think of your training as a vacation. After all, it's a chance to escape from work for awhile. If class starts at 9am, there's nothing wrong with showing up at 9:30. If the instructor gives you a 5 minute break, take 10 minutes.
- Don't ask questions. If you don't understand something, it's your fault. Just keep trying by yourself until you "get it".
- There is no such thing as a stupid question. Ask any question you want, whenever you want. If the instructor is demonstrating RAID and she uses an ls switch you don't recognize, ask about it. Don't settle for a short answer, demand a long discussion. Chances are, someone else in the class was also more interested in ls than RAID.
- It is important that everyone in the class recognize how much you already know. Don't think of questions as a chance to learn, think of them as a chance to list the certifications you've already earned.
- Asking questions is also a great chance to challenge the authority of the instructor. If you notice the instructor make a mistake, pounce on it. The more minor the mistake, the more your fellow students will respect your careful attention to detail.
- Don't share your experience with your fellow students. You had to work hard to gain it, they should too. If you must share what've you've learned, be sure to take as much time as possible before getting to the point.
- You shouldn't take notes. If you do take notes, write them down on random pages so that you'll never be able to find them again.
- You might have noticed that one of your fellow students always reviews the lecture before doing the lab. You don't want to be like that person, that person is a pansy.
- You might have noticed that the same person puts a checkmark next to each step in the lab so the he can make sure he doesn't skip a step. Geez, what a nerd. You obviously don't want to be like him.
- Pay attention to everything. All knowledge is equal. There is no such thing as core concepts or core skills, so don't waste your time looking for them.
- You've probably heard someone say something like "I don't know everything about Apache, but I know how to find it out quickly." Maybe your instructor has told you that being able to find and understand documentation is more important than trying to memorize everything. Those people are just lazy. After all, doesn't your co-worker Bob seem to know everything? Sure, Bob has 20 years of Unix experience, a foot long grey beard and questionable personal hygiene, but what does that matter? You've taken a week long class, you should know everything too.
- You're not getting paid to train, you're getting paid to work. Always answer your phone. Check your work email every ten minutes. Log into work remotely during the lecture. Your manager will be impressed by how hard you work. Impressing your manager is a much better way to advance than learning new skills.
- Sometimes instructors will try to give "advice" about how to do labs. Ignore the advice. The instructor is just trying to be lazy. Most training manuals do not have errors, that's why the class is so expensive. If there actually is an error, you can just ask the instructor for help later.
- Ignore everything in your book. Your book is filled with nothing more than words. You're in the class to gain knowledge. The instructor has knowledge, so go ahead and ask the instructor how to do every step of the lab instead of reading the instructions in the book. They wouldn't help you anway.
- Flamewars are fun, just ask all your friends in the local Linux Users Group. If you're bored, the classroom is a great place to try and start a flamewar.
- Sleep is for chumps. If you're travelling on the company's dime, take advantage of that per diem! This is especially important if you're taking a certification exam at the end of the class. The test will not be fun, better have fun while you can.
Hopefully it should be obvious that I'm not trying to single out a specific person. If you do recognize yourself in every comment, you should either be proud of your accomplishment, or deeply worried. I'll let you decide which.