Friday, 9 November 2012

Full marks for learning

Most of today I spent marking assignments for my online writing students; exhausting and exciting at the same time. It’s encouraging to find people who are enthusiastic and committed to learning, who ask questions, who do the work, who take on board feedback and apply it. Who come back for more! When I think of 15-year-old Malala Yusafzai, shot by the Taliban because she campaigned for girls’ education, it reminds me how often those of us with access to education take it for granted. Many a parents are familiar with their kids groaning about school; how school is boring and where, according to many teens, they generally do nuthin’ and learn nuthin’ all day. I acknowledge that for some an academic environment doesn't suit their learning style and that for others life circumstances make it hard. Yet missing out on education is often a profound regret for many as they get older.

At the end of my high school education, my English Lit teacher, Rod Daniels, encouraged me to write professionally. To my everlasting regret I didn't listen and it took another 30 years before I had an opportunity to write. Now I've come full circle. It’s not just that I learn from having been a student but I also learn from being a teacher. Interaction with students forces me to examine my own work, what I am sharing with them in terms of my knowledge, my experience and what I know of the writing craft. It's thrilling to see students thrive and develop and to know I've played a part in that.

The older I get the more I value learning. Partly because the older I get, the more I'm aware of how much there is know. Lifelong education is important at many levels. It's not just about skill development. It's also about adapting to a changing world. It's about keeping our minds fresh and alive with ideas. As we are living longer, we are challenged to face new ways of working, in fact extended ways of working and often across a number of different careers. All of this involves learning in some form. So get yourself into an online course, go learn a language, teach one if you can, get onto U3A, go to TAFE, do a community course, get into your local library for one of the many free sessions they run. Share what you know. Keep learning.