We continually hear the phrase “lifelong learning” but what does that really mean for educators? That is a question that I have asked myself over the course of my career on many occasions during times when I felt like I was making an impact but also when there were struggles. During these moments, I have come to some conclusions from my perspective that I want to share with you. Life Long learning – a simple phrase that I hope is more than a tag line used in conversation or interview answers. To help understand this phrase I will attempt to share what it means to me and how does that actually look in an educator’s daily and busy life.
What does it mean?
In my years in education, the landscape of teaching/learning has definitely changed, yet alone school leadership. Gone are the days when the instructional model consisted of teachers lecturing the entire hour and giving book problems and worksheets as daily homework. While there still should be some teacher lecture in classrooms and worksheets/book problems may still be effective at times, the environment has changed as well. Traditional arrangement of desks in rows have been replaced with flexible seating and use of space all throughout a school building. The changes in Professional learning challenges the people doing the work as the “sit and get” must be replaced with engaging activities where participants are actively involved and can take the topic and use the next day in their work. As a result, lifelong learning must mean that we develop consistent practices where you:
- Learn new instructional approaches/strategies that apply to your role
- Apply those into your role by practicing that strategy
- Reflect upon its impact (did it serve the right purpose)
- Gather feedback from those that were involved in the new approach
- Revise your approach if needed for future use
In short, we must continue growing and learning as the field of teaching/learning has changed so much. When a person continues to grow you may find opportunities to change yourself in ways that you did not even realize. The challenge is “are you willing to take that step”?
How does it look in an educator’s life?
With technology, the opportunities to grow and have lifelong learning opportunities are endless. However, what does that look like as so many educators are already working long hours, have increasing demands placed upon them from external forces and strive to find the right balance between work and family/personal life. From my viewpoint, this comes back to establishing a “mindset” that supports lifelong learning. This includes understanding for each person where you are at in your growth and recognize where you can go. The important thing is you need to start and be comfortable with failing. It is a journey much like a “winding road” but with a mindset on staying positive and looking at obstacles and tough situations as learning opportunities. These opportunities allow you to grow by using the strategies mentioned above and “sharpen your saw” with development of skills for future situations.
During my time, I have attended many conferences, read so many books, taken part in twitter and social media platforms. While all of these are wonderful methods to learn, each person must recognize what “fits” for them and their lifestyle. Most importantly, it is so easy to get caught up in the “busy world” we each live in so we must keep a system where we focus on our growth as we navigate our roles and learn from the challenges that we face. There is no specific book, workshop or social media platform by itself that will change our lifelong learning. It is rather the passion to pursue growth, persistence to continue learning despite struggles and the patience to recognize that is truly a lifetime of learning.
I would love to hear from you on what you believe is “lifelong learning” and how it looks in your busy life. Comment below or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org