Being a lifelong learner

As a teacher I am surrounded by learning, or at least I hope that I am. I spend my days trying to figure out ways to help my students learn and serving as an advocate for education. As I was driving to work the other morning and thinking through the myriad of tasks on my to do list, a thought occurred to me: “What am I doing to learn?”. So much of my time is devoted to work, taking care of my kids, keeping up with household tasks, etc there isn’t much time left for me. I truly believe that in order for me to be the best teacher that I can, I need to keep learning. For one thing, I need to stay on top of the current topics in science so I can keep my classes relevant. I also need to make sure that I am fulfilling my own intellectual needs. It can be so easy to get caught up in our never ending responsibilities¬† and forget about investing in our own minds.

One thing that I have always admired about my husband is that he never stops learning. He is constantly reading, listening, watching. Here are some ideas I have picked up from watching him for fostering a never ending spirit of learning in your own life:

1) TED Talks. We have referred to TED Talks in several posts over the last year. These things are awesome. It is one of the wonders of the internet that you can pick just about any topic that you might be interested in and then watch a lecture from one of the foremost experts in the field. FOR FREE.

2) Audiobooks.¬† I spend about two hours in the car every day driving back and forth to work. Sometimes I just need that time to decompress and be alone with my thoughts, but when I don’t I can put that time to good use by listening to audiobooks. I have a subscription to Audible that allows me to download a new book each month. Sometimes it’s fiction, other times it will be nonfiction. The selection of nonfiction books is not infinite, but there’s good variety and I certainly have not exhausted the options. I’ve listened to books on effective leadership, peace building in Pakistan, education, science, etc. Each book provides a fresh perspective.

3) Documentaries. We have two young boys at home that love TV. One thing that Michael has been great about is to shift their attention from mind numbing shows like Bob the Builder, to documentaries. As a family we’ve recently watched shows on the history of the monster truck, the building of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and chimpanzees. Even after the kids go to bed, documentaries are a great way to veg out in front of the TV, while still learning something new.

4) Engaging in the local culture and opportunities. This one can be challenging for people with small kids, but, with a little planning, not impossible. We don’t live in a big city, but there are a couple of colleges nearby that offer lectures and events open to the public. As a couple, Michael and I need to be better about seeking out these opportunities more.

The important thing is to never stop learning. Make the time! Make it a priority. What are some ways that you can foster learning in your own life?

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