Exercise your passion for learning

"While schools can prepare students for a life of self-education, true self-education can only occur when a person chooses to learn what he can also decide not to learn."
Self-Direction in Adult Learning (Brock and Hiemstra)

I love working with my students. They fight learning the simplest concepts because they’re bored. They can hardly wait to get out of school so they can stop learning. They figure they know everything they’re ever going to want to know.

My students also think I’m a bit odd because I’m always sharing something I’ve
learned recently or I’m talking about needing to read up on something. They can’t picture wanting to learn something simply
because you want to, instead of being forced to.

With all the options for self-directed learning available today, I’m sure these students are learning outside of school without being aware of it. When they modify their MySpace profiles on their own or look up the stats on the newest models of motor bikes, they’re learning. They’re learning what they want, on their own terms, in a manner that makes sense to them. Against their wills and without their knowledge or consent, they are becoming lifelong learners.

I’ve long been of the belief that living without learning isn’t really living at all. We have a wide world around us, waiting for us to explore it. We don’t have to sit in a classroom to learn about it anymore, either. The options for pursuing learning opportunities are incredible! You can choose to attend a class, read a book, visit a website, listen to a podcast or watch a videoblog, find a mentor, attend a teleseminar, and the list goes on. The options are virtually limitless. Even better, you can combine these options to create your own learning experience.

In today’s information-rich society, it’s hard to go a day without learning something new, so go forth and embrace each opportunity to learn and grow!

Rebecca Thomas is a teacher, writer, and jewelry designer living in the Pacific Northwest.


  1. says

    Rebecca, so true! As a former substitute teacher I can relate to this. The students are bored about the subject within the four walls but get them outside on a skateboard trying new moves, jumps, watching each other… somehow that is not “learning”. Or in a music group trying to find a sound that mixes well with the instruments they have, that is not “learning”. And then, get them to talk about their area of interest and they can’t stop. The trick, of course, is to bring the curriculum to their door step. To pick up on yesterday’s posting, to open a portal into their world. To use the skateboard or instrument as a portkey into “learning” but not calling it that. Anyway to get them interested in exploring and eventually they’ll make the connection that this “learning” might be okay.
    Keep at it!

  2. says

    You make an excellent point, Rebecca. And I especially like your expression of the belief that without learning we aren’t really living. Without learning there is no adventure, there are no challenges, and most importantly there isn’t anything willing us forward.
    The catch is that they want to learn in their own way. In business its often said that you should listen to your employees but the same must also be said about students. Facilitate their learning, allow them to express and experience things and support their processes.
    This is what makes an ‘educational system’ difficult because you can’t create a system that will teach everyone one way–and be the right way all of the time.
    To pull from Rosa’s post, learning does need a Cool Factor, but only the student can decide what is and isn’t for themselves.

  3. says

    Rebecca, I love the connection you have made on how we learn in our information rich culture of today, as children and adults. There is so much out there for us to explore and our curriculum is usually based on our passions from our choices in books to read, our work to do, to even the movies we choose to watch. We are always learning, the challenge is guiding ourselves into learning what we need to know, not just what is in front of us.
    I hear your rallying cry for all of us to learn with intent by seizing the opportunity to learn everyday. Mahalo for reminding us of our great learning potential, because it can be too easy to become complacent.
    Carpe diem for learning!

  4. says

    This is great Rebecca, you gave me such a memory feast this morning!
    I thought about my own students, in actual classrooms, and in workplace forums, and I thought a lot about my children —all learning in the very moments they thought they were being rebellious or contrary to MY “oddness” when my passion for a certain subject was getting a bit too much for them to handle. In their good-natured debate with me I could see the wheels start to turn, and it was such a joyful thing to have them engage with me, even if not as I may originally have planned it.
    And on the learning on their own terms, one memory in particular sticks out; a Christmas Day morning when Santa Claus delivered a new family computer set-up to us. As I started to plod through an imbedded desktop tutorial to configure the internet set-up (this was a while ago” my children were half their present ages) my son impatiently grabbed the mouse from me, said something like “oh give me a break mom, that’ll take you forever!” He closed the tutorial, and just clicked his way through window after window of set-up to my utter, open-mouthed amazement. That day, my 9-year old son taught me a lot about learning in his own brave and bold way, caution thrown to the wind.

  5. says

    Rebecca, well done! I just read an article this morning in the NY Times about how teachers “help shape a generation”, so my hats off to you for taking on that challenge. Also, like Tim, I love the statement about not living unless you are learining. Amen to that! Thanks, and all the best.

  6. says

    Your role as a teacher in the lives of these young people is very important. I am always indebted to the men and women who will give of their lives in the investment of teaching. Yours is a special calling.
    I am thinking about your post’s emphasis on the desire to learn. That’s the key isn’t it? It’s the whole, “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear” thing. Our students will say that they’re “bored” but I think there’s more to it than that. To be “bored” is a cop out.
    I think that we have the opportunity to address the desire to learn at more of a root level like you address. Perhaps we’re on the verge of discovering some new avenues of learning that will have a greater connection with this generation.
    Viva Learning!