In 2008, I completed my Certificate in Adult Education. Three years later walked across the stage to receive my M.Ed. in Studies of Lifelong Learning. They opened both my mind and the world to new ways of thinking about learning and teaching.
Learning never stops for me. I am committed to lifelong learning and looking back, always have been. I am also a teacher. Sometimes I am training or facilitating in the workplace. Other times I am presenting at a conference or coaching my clients. But I am always teaching.
As I work with my clients and continue to grow and learn, I have come to adopt some core beliefs about the work I do. These principles guide my work and my life. I practice what I preach.
Here is my Learning (and Teaching) Manifesto:
Learning is a journey. Learning isn’t something we do and then it ends. As we go through life, we are constantly adding to what we already know whether we are conscious of it or not. Every day what we hear, what we say, and what we do, is part of that journey. It is as natural as breathing. It is what keeps our mind, body, and spirit connected to the world around us.
There is power in learning. When we learn something, we own those ideas. It becomes part of who we are and our capacity for growth increases. No one can take our knowledge and skill from us. It can transform us into a new level of being and understanding and as a result, change how we live. If we continue to learn, there is no limit to who we can become.
We all learn the same. Every typical healthy brain learns the same. Our hippocampus stores what we learn as a memory with the intent that we can retrieve when we need it. We often confuse the process of learning with the method. As a result, there are many misconceptions out there about how we learn. Although we all have learning preferences, we are more similar than different.
Learning is a human experience. Forget the technology. Forget the methods. Always remember that each learner is a human being. They have their own thoughts, feelings, experiences, goals, and desires. Forgetting the humanness, makes learning become a product instead of a personable journey. Focus on the learners – each person deserves respect, inclusion, safety, and acknowledgement.
Learning can be messy. While I am an advocate of fun, I have come to realize that learning is not always enjoyable. Sometimes it is a darn struggle. I have broken into tears learning something complex and new. I have seen this level of frustration in others. What I know is that over time things can start to click and when it does, you feel much more triumphant. But it takes hard work. Making mistakes is okay and learning is never about perfection.
Knowing how to learn is a crucial skill. The world is faster, more connected, and constantly evolving. Knowing how to learn is crucial to staying relevant and current. We need to put down the highlighter and try recalling the information as much as possible. Do so after having a good sleep. We underestimate the power of sleep and learning. Equally important is finding meaning and connecting it to what we already know. Think about other ways we can use our new knowledge or skill to help connect the dots and provide meaning.
Be critical. Part of learning is asking good questions and staying curious. Listen to the answers. Think about the logic behind something and then make conclusions. Being critical is examining motives and looking at the sources. We need to stop believing everything we hear or read as truth without some contemplation.
No one else can motivate us to learn. The old proverb you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink is a perfect example of this. Learning comes down to a choice. As adults, we decide what we will learn, when, and why. Ask why this is important to me and how can I apply it to my situation. When we adopt a lifelong learning mindset, we begin to look for opportunities to learn and grow.
Everyone can learn but not everyone can teach. I have had great teachers, but I have also had my share of terrible ones. Great teachers understand that learning is a process and not an information dump. They take the time to develop their skills and put the work in before they ever hit the classroom. They keep learning fresh and exciting. We all think we can teach because we have seen it done. This isn’t true. Teaching is a profession and we need to give it respect.
When we decide to teach, we have an obligation to do it well. We have so much we can teach others. When we share our knowledge with others, we have an opportunity to impact someone for the good. Sharing information in a few power points slides isn’t teaching yet so many people act as if it is. If we are going to teach (train, facilitate, or present) we need to figure out how to do it right. Read, take courses, or talk to those who know of what they do, but we must stop thinking we can wing it. Our “students” deserve better.
Teaching is never about us. Teaching is making an impact on our students. It is all about them. It is about creating a safe and welcoming space for them. It is about helping them reach their goals. It is about making the experience relevant for them and accommodating their needs. It is important to remember as teachers we should speak less and listen more. We are never the most important person in the room – our students are.
Teaching is reciprocal in nature. When we teach, we learn. because we are the expert, it does not mean that we can’t learn from teaching others. I have never felt that I didn’t gain something of equal or higher value from my students.
Teaching is a gift we give to others. We have the expertise to share and the ability to impact people in a powerful and meaningful way. At a time of so much uncertainty in our world, this calling is more important than ever. Unleash your gift and transform the world.