• Michelle

School's out

Updated: Jul 27, 2018

school work
with a lovely, blue/rose period Picasso

Vacation time! You don't have to study (or maybe work, or maybe drive the kids to school and soccer and scouts...) for a few months! Many of us get the chance to do something purely for fun in the summer. So then why do we go to museums on vacation even though we learn there?

Why do we think that we only learn in school? And that once we "graduate," we've learned everything we need? Some of us know that's not true; I mean, of course you need your certifications. You can earn a higher salary if you get more certifications. And of course you need your CEUs or CLEs or whatever you call them. You've got to keep up with the latest changes in your profession. Okay, good point. So then learning is for work.

Y'ALL!!!! Did you know your brain is amazing? It's wired to learn; it's always on. You are ALWAYS learning; you've been learning since the moment you were born. What's more, we crave learning. Every day as you have desires and make choices, your brain is calculating, adjusting your perception of the world. Your desires motivate you to act. Your decisions impact your environment and the result teaches you about physics (the ball goes at that angle when I hit it like that) and sociology (crap--she looks angry at me now) and biology and history and music and on and on. We are constantly choosing our own curriculum, based on our desires and decisions. I chose to go the the Guggenheim on vacation because I enjoy looking at modern art. I looked at modern art and learned more about how color, line, and angle can articulate a mood. I learned that my husband has a preference for representational art. I learned that if your earring falls off at the top of the Guggenheim's famous spiral walkway, you'll probably never find it.

And then, if you value what you're learning, your mind processes this new information and uses it to make your next choices, based on what you want. Let your husband choose the next museum so that he'll want to buy you another pair of earrings. We're smarter every moment...if we want to be. Our brains do this automatically, but we can choose to ignore them and pretend that we've already learned all that we need. If you don't reflect, you won't remember for the next time. Neuroscientists have found that reflecting on new information sort of locks in knowledge that we may lose otherwise.

If we can begin to see ourselves and each other in this way: as eternal students, our desires determining our learning, then we can become super employees, super parents, super successful. And something else happens: you become a super teacher. Because if you believe that learning works this way, then you understand how to influence people.

Everyone's a teacher AND everyone's a student. And every place is school. No matter how old you are or how much you've accomplished. This simultaneity of teacher/student may seem obvious, but it's surprisingly hard to remember, mostly because of our egos. Those of us who have a few decades of experience and along the way have earned impressive job titles can find it hard to admit we need help. We think that "not knowing" will cause others to lose respect for us. It's really humbling to have to ask a question that everyone seems to know the answer to. We have to STOP IT. You're a student every moment, and you're also a teacher every moment. Seeing through this lens also helps us to be easier on those around us; they're learning as they go, just like us. Just teach each other without judging!

Employers should recognize this and build their training programs around peer teaching at exactly the moment when an employee wants to learn a skill. #corptraining If you have a high-stakes presentation to give on Thursday, you're really ready to learn how to use PowerPoint on Monday. (Or maybe Wednesday night.) Chances are, because you have to use that knowledge quickly, you'll remember everything you learned. This process is so much more efficient than having the Corporate Trainer explain a skill to employees out of context, when most of us will only retain 10% of what's said. Bosses can train every employee in some basic teaching techniques and how to recognize when a peer wants to learn. Then you have a company full of trainers who can do mini-lessons exactly when their peers are ready for them. It shouldn't be annoying when we have to teach peers how to do something; it's an opportunity to be a teacher, and it proves that our peers want to do their best. It's team-building.

Teachers who know this should not shy away from letting students have input into the curriculum. I've heard teachers say: "It's not my job to entertain them." Maybe. But if you do entertain them, they WANT to learn more. They become curious. And when you're curious, you're ready to adapt your behavior. Why not meet them where they are? Why not use music or dance moves or fashion to relate your material? Why not have them write their own final exams, as a colleague of mine recently did in her Calculus class?

the joys of learning
My nephew, learning like crazy.

Isn't my nephew cute? He looks SO happy. It's because he's learning. About the texture of sand, how it changes when it gets wet, how to dig, what it tastes like.....

His teachers are water, waves, sand, wind.

Learning is joy.

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