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Why educators NEED to be life-long learners

As educators, as parents, we NEED to be life-long learners.

One of the reasons life-long learning is key for educators, for parents, is because unless we are pushed out of comfort zone by learning something new, it is easy to stick to what we are good at and to forget what learning is like. We become good at something we practice often, and as we become more comfortable doing it, we forget the learning process. From the top of the hill, it is tempting to look down and say, ‘just get up here’, forgetting what route we took, how difficult it was to find the way, how many times we got lost, and how much some steps hurt.

Perhaps, for instance, you are very good at doing maths. Numbers are your language, and you can see the logic of a problem as you read through it. You might then struggle to see how someone reads the same problem and sees nothing but a mess of numbers and symbols with no clear path forward. Or maybe you are an amazing chef. You see ingredients and can just imagine the tastes, the combinations, the flavours. So you cannot imagine why someone would not know when onions are burning, or how sugar and salt are different.

I recently started learning something new. I am at the very beginning of my journey learning taekwondo. I have always wanted to learn a martial art as a form of self-defence, particularly after some bad experiences traveling on my own, when I wished I could have punched someone out of my face... but I digress. So I am keen to learn! But… I had forgotten the challenges of learning. I had forgotten how intimidating it is to enter a new space as a beginner. To try and fail. To be the worst in the class. To try not compare yourself, but have that little voice that tells you – really, this is not for you- and to have to keep going despite that voice. To depend on someone else to show you how to do something and, more importantly, to depend on them to guide you, to support you, and to encourage you as you try.

I am grateful that I am in a great taekwondo club. Mr Hall and Mr Thomas, who lead the club, have created a strong culture of kindness and respect in the club. Anyone who comes in is welcomed. Everyone is expected to try their best, but there is no sense of competition. Rather there is a sense of collaboration.

I have learned more about teaching by joining the club as a student, than I have from so many of my years teaching. It has reminded me of how vulnerable students are, how much kindness and support they need. It has reminded me of how much we need teaching to be flexible, because each student has different needs. I cannot learn in the same way the lithe 7-year-olds around me can. They bring an enthusiasm and energy I match with experience and creaky joints. And it has also reminded me of how much guidance is needed in learning. I need someone to teach me 100 times where to put my hand. And I also need the encouragement to try complex moves, even if I cannot accomplish them, because they are fun and having fun keeps me going – despite the aforementioned creaky joints.

So, we need to keep learning. We need to keep pushing ourselves outside our comfort zones. Because it is good for us – the adrenaline of the new trials makes us feel alive, the joy of learning is wonderful, and learning keeps our brain and body healthy. But also because it reminds us of the process of learning, which gives us insights to become better teachers for our Thinkers.




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