I have spent a lot of time in my life and especially in my career asking the question: What does it mean to learn? We spend so much time doing it (learning) but I have always been the kind of person who questions everything. All of my life I have been driven by asking the question: WHY?
If there is one thing that defines me as a human being and as a teacher, it is my drive to ask that question. I've learned over the years not to expect to arrive at a definitive answer to the question 'why?' but I have found that I have developed an insatiable curiosity about the world. My curiosity is quite broad; however, if I introspect, I realize that there are things that I have no interest in (cars, engines, doing handyman work etc.). But I have always been interested in people, and what makes them tick, why do they do the things they do, and what goes on in the inner world of their minds? Writers always have a strong curiosity about people.
That's why they are able to build characters and plots that are intriguing and suspenseful- they know a lot about people and how and why they behave the way they do.
I tend to be more interested in the philosophical aspect of writing and so I write more non-fiction than fiction. Writing essays like this is where I'm most at home as a writer. I am curious about human nature, how we live our lives and what it means to live a rich and fulfilling life. I discovered a long time ago that these questions and issues don't 'get answered'; they just keep getting re-asked, with deeper and wiser interpretations.
And one of the BIG questions is: WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO LEARN? OR, HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOU'VE LEARNED SOMETHING?
I mean, think about it. Forget about school and the classroom for a minute. In your life, can you remember a time when you really know that you learned something significant- or even something insignificant? What was it? What makes you sure that you learned? What did it feel like? What did it look like? What did you do?
This is a challenging exercise because it requires the ability to INTROSPECT, to go inside and think about how you think. Thinking about your thinking is called META COGNITION. Whenever you reflect about relationships, or about your future, or about problems you may have, you are engaging in INTROSPECTION.
We are all SEEKERS in this world. Writers are seekers who want to understand. They are CURIOUS.
There are a few elements that I think are important for learning:
1. CURIOSITY- you can go anywhere you wnat in this world if you have an insatiable curiosity. You don't have to know anything about a subject or issue. If you are curious you can learn. Find the things that make you curious and pursue them. And of course, with the Internet and social media, you can find other people who are also curious about the same things you are.
2. GROWING- In my research over the years I discovered an interesting idea- that we have these things called meta programs in us. One of them is: SAMENESS AND DIFFERENCE. Sometimes we want to be in our comfort zone and we want things to be the same- same habits, same routine. But, sometimes we want DIFFERENCE. We want CHANGE, GROWTH, something new. LEARNING most often is related to NEWNESS. Be aware when you are moving towards comfort and when you are moving towards change and growth. LEARNING usually requires us to leave our comfort zones.
3. UNCERTAINTY- When we are absolutely certain about something, we are probably going to stop looking for new information and new ideas. Absolute certainty can be very comforting , but it can also stop us from growing and learning. Question your assumptions and you may find an opportunity to LEARN. Seek understanding but be willing to question it.
BE CURIOUS, BE READY TO GROW, AND ACCEPT UNCERTAINTY AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN SOMETHING NEW.