The most amazing thing I learned is that we have the power to "reprogram" our brains. Yes, you read that correctly. Just the idea blows my mind. The brain's capacity to learn new information is infinite; we just need to rewrite old, outdated information with the shiny, new ideas. This has a lot of implications for me as a math teacher. Often times students come to me knowledgeable about the concept, they just remembered the information wrong. A lot of what I do is reteaching and breaking bad habits.
The good news? Your mother was right when she told you that you could be anything you want to be as long as you put your mind to it. Studies have shown that the most successful people don't really have any innate talents or genius, they have just had more practice. Practice really does make perfect. In fact, the ideal number of hours for perfection is 10,000. Wow, that seems like a lot. But when you think about the number of hours an Olympic athlete spends training or a musician spends practicing, it makes sense. The more time you spend doing something, the better you get at it.
Ideally, the best time to learn a new skill is when you're young. You can't teach an old dog new tricks, right? Wrong! You can, it's just extrememly frustrating. That poor old dog needs to unlearn every old trick and then work extra hard not to do the old trick every time he tries to do the new trick. The process is hard, leaving the dog and the owner so irritated that they both just give up. The same is true for kids at school. "I'm just not a math person." Well kids, I wasn't a math person either. True, some people are born with a natural talent for numbers. I was not. In fact, I spent many hours in middle school at my kitchen table crying over my math homework because I just didn't get it. It made me sad, it made me mad, and it made me feel dumb. It would have been very easy for me to say, "I'm just not a math person," take my D because at least it's passing, and focus on my strengths. I'm far too stubborn for that. I ended up teaching myself. It took a lot of work and a lot of practice, but I ended up taking AP Calculus my senior year of high school. That's the kind of rags to riches story I love to hear- a kid goes from not knowing the correct order of operations to being able to find derivatives and integrals.
Maybe there's still hope that I can learn how to dance without looking like a fool.