lifelong learner

Are You A Lifelong Learner?

As a parent, you know the importance of providing your child with a good education, both in school and out. But what about your learning? Do you strive to deepen your knowledge, take courses, and continue your education, or are you finished with textbooks, tests, and teachings? Don’t you want to ‘walk the talk’ you give to your own children? When kids see adults in their life harnessing curiosity, reading to learn, and striving to improve, their motivation to do better and work harder increases. There are some incredible benefits of becoming a lifelong learner for everyone, not just for kids.

lifelong learner

source

Are you a lifelong learner?

Higher wages

Money isn’t everything – far from it, in fact. For many professions, including mine, teaching, if you want to raise your earning potential, learning is the route you need to take. I worked hard to increase my salary by obtaining as much post-grad education as possible. Time and again, research shows us that continuing your education improves your chances of earning a higher salary, winning more promotions, and having a greater level of financial security. You will never reach your earning potential if you don’t prove yourself with learning, so whether it’s doing a degree as an adult or taking up a workplace offer of training, consume every opportunity that comes your way. Not only will you be more employable, but you will feel more comfortable in your role, happier at work, and have the skills and knowledge you need to achieve great things. The more I learn, the more exciting teaching becomes! It’s infectious!

Develop natural abilities

Everyone has a talent hidden somewhere within them. But these innate natural abilities will never get the chance to come to the fore without an education. Learning helps you understand your talents, and gives you the tools you need to use them properly. Education refines you in a similar way to how a rough diamond is polished to create beautiful jewelry. You’ll never know what you might bring to the world if you don’t take the time to indulge your curiosity!

A healthy, active mind

It’s never too early to start thinking about life as we grow older; if you want to stave off the threat of cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s, you need to keep testing your brain. While diseases such as Alzheimer’s are biological, the simple truth is that you can delay its onset and preserve your quality through lifelong learning. We’re not just talking about reopening the school books again, either. Learning a new instrument or embracing highly skilled challenges on a regular basis can all help by a significant amount. Have you ever thought about taking guitar lessons, or learning how to paint? Trying something new is a great way to grow a healthy, active mind.

lifelong learner source

A chance to be different

I ask my children this question often:  “If you are an employer and have two equally experienced, likable candidates that impress in an interview, what will tip the balance in giving them a job? Is it the person who is bilingual? Will you choose the one without the college qualifications or the one who embraced learning and achieved a master’s in business administration?” Make no mistake about it, lifelong learning can help you stand out front the crowd. And if you have ever pondered the question ‘are MBA degree programs worth it or not,’ ask yourself who you would choose if you were that employer. It’s never been harder to stand out than it is today, and if you want a competitive edge, you need to combine your experience and motivation with an education to prove yourself. I love the app Duolingo – I’m learning Spanish so enhance my ability to communicate at work and as I travel.

Self-fulfillment

People love to achieve things, and if you are looking for genuine self-fulfillment, learning is the only way to go. Whether it’s academic education, traveling the world and experiencing new cultures and ideas, or just stretching your perspectives by reading a challenging book, it all counts as an achievement. You will expand your awareness, knowledge, and create a multifaceted, multidimensional life that actually means something. It’s something you can continue all through your life, too. Your capacity for learning needn’t diminish as you get older, and, in fact, will be improved by educating yourself in your younger years. Your children need role models of adults who practice self-care and self-fulfillment – education is the perfect example to show them you’re never too old to learn something new!

Unique, electrifying experiences

Have you ever felt that sense of pride when you have completed a hard crossword, math problem, or finally read the last page of a tough book? Even these minor accomplishments can give you a major thrill. It’s human nature in action – we are hardwired with a capacity for learning and advancing ourselves intellectually. So, if you want a lifetime of electrifying experiences on a regular basis, push yourself to learn and educate yourself as often as possible. Bear in mind that even if there were zero economic advantage in learning, humans would still do it – and an educated mind is an entirely worthwhile way to express your unique personality and knowledge.

lifelong learner
I’m a lifelong learner through EdTech!

Develop deep relationships

Humans are social animals, and it’s vital that we have the opportunity to connect with other, like-minded individuals. You will meet new people, develop new relationships, enjoy an active social life, and start getting used to having deep conversations with others on a regular basis. The internet has enabled me to build so many professional relationships and cultivate strong friendships with people in my areas of interest – don’t shy away from creating a professional learning network online.

Become a contributor to society

No one wants to become a burden on their family, community, or society as a whole. And lifelong learning – especially when you approach retirement – can help you feel like you are still making a contribution. It will keep you active, sociable, and ensure that you aren’t feeling like you are a drain. Whether it’s learning new skills to help your community or going back to college and writing a Ph.D. that helps humans understand more on any given subject, there are thousands of lifelong learners who are huge contributors to the world – and continually educating yourself is the best way to join them.

Become a person of wisdom

When you commit to lifelong learning, you will develop a thorough understanding of why, how, and what life is really about. You will begin to realize what works – and what doesn’t. You will also develop a deep understanding of yourself, and those around you. Money can’t buy you this kind of wisdom, to become a lifelong learner you have to go through it all yourself to have the ability to put your life into perspective.

Become hungry for more
lifelong learner

The more you learn, the more you want to learn. It’s a mindset that you will grow into when you embrace continual learning and one that you will never fully sate. The beauty of being a lifelong learner is that you can go down any route you like and still learn a lot about yourself and life in the world today. I’d love to hear about your lifelong learning – feel free to leave your comments in the section below!

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Prepare To Take The Helm: Building Community Together

Helm (PSF)
Helm (PSF) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s funny how life circles itself around you sometimes, isn’t it?

This morning my freshman AVID students discussed the quote, “A community is like a ship. Everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm.” It was one of those inspirational quotes printed in their daily calendar, meant to encourage critical thinking.

As usual in my classroom, things didn’t quite go as I expected. In small groups, I asked them to talk about what they thought the quote meant, and how they could apply it to their AVID experience or their life in general.

First, I heard several kids asking what ‘helm’ meant. Didn’t expect that one.

“It’s something you wear on your head,” I overheard one boy explain. “Like helmet.”

Well, not exactly. I do like that he’s looking at the word, though.

“I think it’s the front of a ship,” said another.

“No, it’s being in charge,” a few responded.

Now we’re on the right track. Something the person in charge wears on their head on the front of a ship. Sigh.

When we came back together, they began to share. Eventually, we talked about why it would be important to be ready to take charge, or to be prepared to step up. We talked about how communities need to have leaders, but that everyone needs to feel heard and be able to contribute.

I felt good as they went into their tutorial groups, and noticed a spark of understanding in their eyes. Their discussions were animated and thoughtful; it really seemed like they have learned to depend on each other for support.

Less than an hour later, the true meaning of the quote as it applied to my life became visible.

One of the absolute benefits of my job is my colleagues. Teaching isn’t an easy job, and teaching middle school definitely isn’t for the faint hearted. The constant rollercoaster of being around hundreds of teens experiencing puberty can send the toughest personalities over the edge at times.

That’s exactly what happened today. Someone hit their tipping point and came to me for support, lips quivering, eyes welling with tears.

Without hesitation, I listened. I empathized; I knew precisely the complete overwhelm they were experiencing. I felt the anxiety, the vulnerability, and the fear.

I took the helm. I did what I knew how to do. I tried to envelop them with safety, trust, and a sense of importance. I got help, and took action.

I actually didn’t think twice about it, and then I went back to my day.

Hours later, after the kids left for the day, they thanked me. Their message of relief, trust and belonging broadcast clearly how much my actions mattered.

community
Photo credit: planeta

And when they breathed their sigh of relief, spoke their words of gratitude, and expressed their sense of belonging, I knew. Really, it’s the reason I’ve stayed there as long as I have. It’s the people, the relationships, the community.

We realize that we don’t always have to be the one steering the ship; our shipmates are right alongside, ready to step up. They help us avoid the icebergs, clean up after a storm, and sing when our spirits need a lift. They are always ready to take the helm.

It’s funny how life circles around itself like that sometimes, isn’t it?

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Teaching Middle School is Not Insanity: How to Change Behaviors Einstein-Style

Albert-Einstein-Insanity-Quote-300x253

I started teaching 22 years ago, full of energy and sure I could make change happen.

Twenty-two years later, I’ve made some mistakes along the way, but ultimately I’ve had more success than failure.

I guess that’s why I keep teaching middle school.

Middle school teaching isn’t for everyone. Some say it’s the worst possible age group, but I disagree. I love it.

Challenging? Yes. Frustrating? Often. Fun? Usually. Rewarding? Definitely. Insane? Sometimes.

For the last five years I’ve been building up the AVID program in our school. AVID is an acronym for Advancement Via Individual Determination, and is a nationwide program to ‘level the playing field’ for students stuck in the academic middle.

I love it.

In fact, I’d bet that Einstein would have been a perfect AVID student.

Einstein's high school transcript
Einstein’s high school transcript (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes students are stuck through no real fault of their own-their family situations, socioeconomic status or access to education may have caused them to slip behind their peers. Sometimes, however, it’s just good old fashioned stubbornness, with a dash of insecurity, that results in their underachievement.

That’s where Einstein comes in.

His definition of insanity is one I share over and over with my students, as many times as it takes for them to believe me.  Sometimes is takes all year. Sometimes two years, depending on their stubbornness factor.

Middle school kids, especially eighth graders, like to think they know it all, and their parents know nothing. Teachers usually hover somewhere above or below parent status: we often are listened to a little bit more by virtue of not living with them, but sometimes students see all adults in the same light.

When my AVID students arrive at the beginning of the year, I lay down some basic rules about school: organization, responsibility, collaboration, and critical thinking are high on my list.  And always, there are the kids who say they like it ‘their way’, despite the fact that ‘their way’ hasn’t been working for them. They want to hang on to what they know. They are afraid to change, even when what they’re doing isn’t getting the desired results.

I know some adults like that, too.

It almost always happens the same way: the kids who try it ‘my way’ find that it works better, and their grades improve. The stubborn ones who won’t change, and have parents who don’t know how to support change usually take a very long time, if ever, to get where they want to be.  Their binders stay messy, their planners incomplete, their homework missing, and their grades below average.

So, ironically, I keep insanely repeating Einstein’s words, knowing that deep down, kids will realize that just because an adult suggests change, it isn’t all bad. Sometimes the kid has to hit bottom and decide for themselves to try it another way.

I say, whatever it takes. I know that my way gets results, eventually.

I’m pretty stubborn, too.

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This post was written as part of the Saturday Sayings series on:

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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