What If you commit to being a lifelong learner?
When we were very young, it started before we were even aware that it was happening. It was mostly accomplished just by instinct and by observing what was happening around us. At some point, the activity became intentional, though it was not necessarily our choice to be intentional about it. We lived in this mandatory phase through most of our childhood and into our late teen years, after which, the activity became voluntary for us again. The activity I am talking about, of course, is learning.
As adults, we are not required to continue to learn. You might have to engage in continuing education for your job, but that is often limited in scope and focused specifically on what you do to make a living. Other than that, there is not much that makes it mandatory for us to learn about anything. We continue to learn as we live because sometimes circumstances demand that we pick up some new information or a different perspective. However, much of our learning, as adults, is unintentional.
Let me ask you a few questions:
When was the last time you took a class of your choosing?
When was the last time you read a book of your choice and finished reading it?
When was the last time you had a conversation with someone who had a different perspective than you do on some topic?
As afterschool professionals, we encourage our students every day in their learning process. We work to provide engaging activities that push students to learn and explore. We offer tutoring so our kids can improve their scores in academic areas in school. Our afterschool programs are often founded on providing opportunities for students to continue to learn.
What If you could model for your students what lifelong learning looks like?
Here are a few ideas to help you keep learning:
- TAKE A CLASS: This doesn’t mean “go back to school”, though it could be that for you. It is just about learning something you didn’t know before. Take a cooking class. Take lessons to learn how to play an instrument. Sign-up for martial arts classes. Explore online classes about education or sign-language or photography or anything that interests you. Intentionally learn something new.
- READ: Reading is one of the learning activities that we know is “good for us” but it often falls by the wayside in adult life. The average American reads one to four books per year. We regularly encourage our students to read. How much more impactful would it be if the kids knew we were readers as well? If you are looking for something good to read, I would suggest The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth, and The Book of Mistakes by Skip Prichard.
- LISTEN: Most of the time, when we have a conversation with people, we are working to communicate our thoughts and ideas. This is especially true when we are talking with someone who sees the world differently than we do. The next time you find yourself in a conversation with someone with a differing opinion, make an effort to really listen. Ask questions. Engage where they are. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything or switch to their viewpoint, but be curious about how that person arrived at their conclusions. You may learn something.
Our students listen to what we say, but they often pick up more from observing what we do. We can talk about what they need to learn and we can make a difference OR we can model intentional, lifelong learning and have a deeper impact, not only for our students, but also for ourselves.
Afterschool Resource Coordinator
Missouri AfterSchool Network
Brad Lademann is a dynamic youth speaker with 16 years of public speaking experience and 12 years of experience working with middle school and high school students. He has worked with teens in many capacities including teacher, youth pastor, coach, mentor, and afterschool program supervisor. He currently works with MASN as our Resource Coordinator and provides technical assistance to SAC and 21CCLC grantees.