Friday, April 11, 2014

How To Be A Real Lifelong Learner

Most people in education hear the phrase "lifelong learner" on a regular basis. This term refers to the ongoing pursuit of knowledge, and it is something that teachers and administrators hope to instill in every student who comes through the doors of the school. A long time ago I believed that the term referred solely to the pursuit of book knowledge, but I now understand that it refers to intellectual curiosity and openness to new experiences. And this is the environment in which I thrive.

Food is gone and she's still being milked, obviously not happy with me
Enter Pebbles. Pebbles and her friend Lady are cows that I milk regularly. I didn't grow up milking cows. I don't remember ever thinking, "You know what I want to learn to do? I want to learn to milk a cow. And I hope that along with milking comes scooping up cow poop!" But in January, as my wife and I found a new farm to buy our raw milk, I started talking with the farm's owner, Sheri, who also runs The SupUrban Farm. We came up with a plan in which I would help Sheri and Bob on the farm so they could get out of town together every once in a while. In addition to getting delicious milk from Pebbles and Lady, I have the added bonus of catching people by surprise when they find out that I milk cows. It's funny that we are so far removed from our food that we don't think of this as something that people do on a regular basis.

My turtle
But the point is that I learned something new. This was an opportunity that I didn't go looking for. It found me, and I was receptive. I find that I am almost always open to learning new things. An acquaintance recently offered to teach me to work with stained glass. Of course I said yes! I'm no expert, and I've only made a single turtle (which, consequently, would have impressed Michelangelo). But it is a new skill that I would like to continue to develop, and I made a new friend in the process. I think this is what lifelong learning is all about. Adding new skills, new hobbies, new interests, and allowing new people to input into our lives.

Twelve years ago I owned two power tools - a drill and a jigsaw. The drill was a gift from my wife, and the jigsaw was a gift from my father-in-law. That was it. My handy skills were very limited, I had very little experience with building, but my interest was piqued with the gifts of these two tools. I now have shelves and shelves of power tools. I have accumulated these tools over the years as I have developed my skills. As my passion and learning increased, so did my tool collection.

Please note the order of events leading up to my current tool collection. My interest, passion, and skills increased, and then my collection increased. In the past I have sometimes thought that I wanted to start something, bought the supplies, and then realized that either I lacked the sustained interest or the necessary talent to pursue that activity. Lesson learned. I did not go out and buy a cow and milking supplies in order to learn how to milk a cow. But when the opportunity presented itself, I gratefully grabbed onto those udders and milked away.

I encourage you to learn something new today. Listen for opportunities, and when they present themselves, grab onto those udders with both hands (figuratively, but perhaps literally as well). 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the encouragement. After years of technical writing, I have really enjoyed having an outlet for creative writing. Thanks for checking out my blog!