Saturday, June 28, 2008

What really is ... lifelong learning?

Even before I became a formal educator, learning has been a priority in my life. I was always the student who asked an abundance of questions in my undergraduate courses. Fellow accounting students got more than they bargained for with me as a classmate. I have always been the one to ask
the questions others would like to ask, but didn’t. One reason I've always asked questions, is really because I'm curious ... and have always loved to learn.

I was, and still am, the person who wants to learn and grow from all of my life experiences, from people around me, and from the classes I take. I’m sure I was born reflecting on what I learned from living in my mother’s womb for nine months, “Lessons Learned in the Womb," (posted in the future!)

When I worked at Children’s Hospital in San Diego, I taught myself graphics computer programs and took classes from UCSD to fill in the gaps. Prior to that I worked in an east coast women’s college where opportunities for learning were prevalent and the environment stimulated by speakers such as Maya Angelou, one of the many speakers who successfully demonstrated living outside of the box.

Now in my 8th year of teaching elementary students, I know that being an educator is my niche, a natural place in which to inspire others to ask the questions, to satisfy their own curiosities by using the skills and tools that independent learners need for exploration. I expect excellence from my student; "No sleeping on the job allowed!" I often tell them! With that said, I also know that nine and ten year olds will make plenty of mistakes while learning takes place; so perfection is not the name of the game. Trying your best is the game plan, however, whatever that means for that individual; it’s different for every student and really for every teacher as well.

My students and I learn together every single year, and I, the teacher, probably learn more than my students do. I hope to lay a solid foundation for my 4th graders, teaching them more than content, about simply learning daily life skills … and I know that if they don’t soar in my class … they will most likely in future classes with the seeds I’ve aimed to cultivate. That is all any good teacher can hope and want for their students.

I continue to ask the questions and reflect on what will make me a better educator, much less a better person, and what will motivate my students to look beyond themselves as I do for myself. How can we show kindness? How can we learn from one another? How can we learn from our mistakes and not repeat them? How can we make good choices ...

I teach my students that every year of life is simply a series of lessons …of "singing a new song" so to speak ... that life is chapter upon chapter of opportunities of learning and that we, in fact, impact our world one way or another, positive or negative. Life is about embracing changes as they come, accepting the good with the bad, knowing that there will be hard times and good times that may actually make us more understanding and empathetic people, that there are things we can control and most other things that we cannot ...

Yes, learning absolutely comes from books, technology, our studies in school, all of these places, but even more importantly from our relationships which are meant to give us a richer, more meaningful life of accumulated wisdom ... more than any book could ever give. In my classroom, we GROW our ideas together into layers of big ideas and thought.

When we use our hearts and minds to reflect ... and then make it a goal to learn from others, we open ourselves up to a greater capacities to love and impart the grace we all so desperately need from one another.

I’m not where I want to be, so that must mean there’s more to learn. Any person who feels they can’t be open and learn from those around them, have, in a sense, died, for life is constantly changing and new around us. How can we not want to be open to what is alive and changing around us? Sameness causes us to go within and atrophy, while diversity has the ever potential effect of luminous and beautiful blossoms.

The only constant that human beings have in life … is that we all have a myriad of opportunities on a changing canvas in which to learn from throughout our lifetime! The questions is ... How will we interact with this canvas to ensure that learning takes place? What are your ideas about lifelong learning?

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