Six Inches From the Edge


I have always felt like I was on the edge. Just one wrong move and it could all go horribly, horribly wrong.  I used to consider myself to be an average person. I don’t anymore. I am different and I am okay with that. For a long time, I thought that being average was a good thing and being different meant that you were a target. Being average meant that you were just like everyone else. I was determined not to stand out.

For me standing out had never been a good thing.  Standing out meant that other children made fun of me because I was intelligent enough to point at the letters of the alphabet while they were still trying to remember which was which. Being slightly more intelligent than my peers meant that my preschool and primary school teachers didn’t take the time to challenge me. They stuck to the syllabus that they had for the other 30 students in the class and I was left to dawdle. Of course I got bored. Of course I stopped caring and naturally my grades started to suffer. At that young age, I did not know what I learnt so many years later. I love a challenge and without any real thing to strive to master and understand I didn’t see the point of putting effort into what I already understood.

So, as a result, I never really mastered the art of studying while I was at school. I listened in class and did the required work and then took the tests and the exams and passed them. It wasn’t a real challenge and I wasn’t growing. Sadly, I did not know.

Then I went to secondary or high school. The biggest difference here was the fact that there were a lot more students around who were just like me. We did what was required and we learnt what we had to learn. We passed our tests and our exams.  I can still remember the first time I failed a course. It was Music Appreciation. I had no interest in the subject and so I was perfectly at ease with failing something that I did not understand.  I would later recognize that failing at something doesn’t bother me especially if I know that I am no good at it.

Then I stumbled into a new concept. I once failed a surprise quiz in a Chemistry course. My favorite teacher looked over my report card and asked me why I had this one low grade on my end-of-term report and I told her that we had an in-class quiz that was a surprise. She asked if I didn’t revise my notes after every class. She seemed genuinely surprised that we were not all constantly staying prepared for eventualities such as this. Frankly, such a thought had never occurred to me. I only studied at exam time. An unexpected quiz in the middle of the term was at the mercy of what I remembered from listening in class, writing notes and doing practical work in the class. I always remembered that the first time I opened the textbook for that Chemistry course, was in preparation for the end of year examination. I was so pleasantly surprised to realize that all the stuff we talked about in class, was also in the book.

The concept of being prepared was new. The idea of studying just to keep up in class had never even dawned on me.  The idea of reading ahead and doing extra homework never even existed as ideas until I heard other people giving study tips to other people they knew.  This helped me get through university. In fact, I spent more time reading books than going to lectures, especially when I realized that the lectures were not covering even half of the material in class. It suddenly felt like going to class was a waste of my time and to get real work done I had to read and do the class assignments and projects. I still had study partners and assigned groups to work with to complete projects and so that allowed me to talk about what I was reading and learning.

I was a gainfully employed adult before learned about learning styles.  When I did an assessment I realized that I am predominantly an auditory learner. That means that I can take in new concepts and ideas best by hearing and talking about them. It is true. I love words.

I also did an assessment once that showed me to be in the 1% when it comes to my language comprehension. Apparently that helps me to quickly understand new concepts and ideas when they are explained to me. On the other hand, when I read, the process takes a little longer, I have come to realize, because I mentally repeat the words in my head so that I can ‘hear’ them.

In the same skill assessment there was a section on spatial skills, where they showed you one side of an object and asked you what you thought the other side would look like. First I had to get over the notion that they expected me to know what the other side of something would look like without seeing it! Then, I realized that all they were giving me was a drawing; there were no words describing anything about it.  When I got the score from the assessment, I understood that I suck at spatial skills. Apparently this is something that architects and designers are good at naturally.  However, this inadequacy on my part, did not bother me.

With the knowledge of my #1 Learning Style, I had found a path to embracing my lack of ‘average-ness’.  I had found an explanation for why I was always so close to failure and yet still so close to success.  My language comprehension skills had given me the ability to rationalize and to use reason when it was needed.  It gave me the ability to revise with my friends and learn concepts that I did not study in class. It enabled me to learn from television, from the radio, from talking and occasionally from writing.  To this day, I still learn best when I hear. Sometimes, I even surprise myself.  Sometimes, I only fully understand some of the concepts running around in my head when I have to take the time to explain them to someone else.

I know that none of this makes me unique or special. However, it does let me know that I am not like everyone else. As such, I no longer have to feel like I am somehow not measuring up or not understanding what everybody else seems to know so effortlessly.  They have their way of getting information into their heads. I have mine.

I am an auditory learner. And proud.


Marjorie Wharton is a trainer, facilitator and coach who works with individuals and organizations to help them improve their performance.  She is based at the Sagicor Cave Hill School of Business in Barbados. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.  For more of her writing visit



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