Here we are starting another great forum for Joyful, Jubilant Learning and I am humbled by the opportunity to write and share my experience of life-long learning. I have to admit that at times I do not feel very qualified for this task, for as much as I am passionate about learning, I am at best a “challenging” student of life. You see, I learn best from great teachers and so I have an obsession for finding those great teachers that have graced our current and past times. This obsession has led me to a variety of tactics to find the opportunity to meet and learn from great teachers. My contribution to this forum will be sharing what I have learned so far.
A student of “The Old School”
When the student is ready, the master appears. ~Buddhist Proverb
The first step in finding great teachers is being a good enough student that is allowed into their classrooms, because frankly not all great teachers are willing to teach all students. This lesson I have learned the hard way and by the best teachers, my “Old School” teachers. The Old School (a.k.a. The O.S.) approach to teaching expects that all students are willing to learn. You show this by embracing the humility and respect required to honor the teacher and the lesson. In the exasperated words of one of my great teachers, “just shut up and listen, Toni. If you just listen and learn, you will know the answers to all of your questions.” This was a powerful lesson for me in Ha‘aha‘a (humility) because it taught me that the humility to truly listen for learning and not to show how much you know is the greatest gift we can give a teacher. This lesson was reinforced when my teacher would believe in me enough to ask me a question. If I answered correctly, then I could enjoy the pride on my teachers face. If I answered incorrectly, then I also learned the hard lesson of Ho‘omau (perseverance) to keep on listening and learning in the face of my teacher’s disappointments.
The quest for finding great teachers
Once you are able to understand and employ the qualities of a good student, it is time to find your great teachers. This part of my adventures has been the most fun because I can imagine hundreds of human “Yoda’s” waiting to be discovered so that they can share their knowledge with me. In my quest for these great teachers, I apply the same humility that I learned at The O.S. and I couple it with my passion to learn. The end result is I am willing to listen and talk with just about anyone. I mean it. You give me a span of unstructured time and a stranger or two and I will seek out what they know often times to the embarrassment of my friends and family.
Let’s also not forget books. Books are the portal to the teachers we will never meet. To be willing to pick up and read any book that looks interesting, you are opening doors to some of the best teachers of the world. Even better opportunities are the books, blogs and articles that our fellow students recommend. These are true gifts that should never be turned away. I also believe in a liberal arts approach to training classes. I will take any training that looks vaguely interesting. This has included bagel baking, government jobs and martial arts training classes, just to name a few. All of them have taught lessons beyond the advertised curriculum and have given me the opportunity to learn from great teachers. So remember, to find the great teachers we must be willing to go to all lengths. As you can see, the obsession is there. Can you imagine being in an elevator with me or sitting next to me at a coffee store?!
Sharing the lesson
To teach is to learn twice. – Joseph Joubert
The best way to learn a skill or lesson is to teach it. The best way to honor your teacher is to live it. The trick for both of these things is to do it well; the magic is when it works. The non-negotiable Kuleana (role and responsibility) of being a worthy student is to live and share the knowledge that was given to us. This can be a simple tactic of suggesting a great book to a friend, or to taking the time to share someone’s story with your family and friends. The more complex and rewarding tactic is to actually “walk the talk” of what your great teacher taught you and by virtue become a teacher too.
Learning is not attained by chance. It must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence. ”“ Abigail Adams
In closing I would like to say "Mahalo" to Rosa for orchestrating this wonderful forums and blog community. As being a great teacher herself, she is showing us how to teach and learn. I would also like to say "Mahalo nui loa" to all of my new teachers as they share their mana‘o for life-long learning for this next month.
Toni Howard is a Workplace Aloha Coach for Say Leadership Coaching. She is passionate about bringing nobility to working arts of management and leadership by sharing the principles and practices of Managing with Aloha. She is also the host and author of a new and upcoming blog site called Imua with Management.