Many people say they are lifelong learners. It has become a go-to buzzword that we use to describe who we are (and what we’d like students to be as well) but have we ever really thought about what lifelong learning truly is? How about what it means? Are you a Lifelong Learner? I think I am but I wasn’t sure of the exact definition so I looked it up and thought this one nailed it:
“Lifelong Learning is the ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons.”
They say that we learn something new every day
I love to learn. I’ll obsess over a certain topic and then move on and become interested in something else. Then I dive into that topic for a while and the cycle continues. I think what we are motivated by can shift and change with inspiration, while remembering that our process of learning is unique to each of us. We should embrace our outside interests. And lastly, we should realize that being a well-rounded person makes us uniquely qualified to share what we know and why we keep questioning the world around us.
So, is Lifelong Learning something we can model? Can we, as teachers, share with our students how to seek knowledge in all walks of life, in all stages of life? I believe we can.
It is crucial that our students understand 3 major things about teachers:
- Teachers don’t know everything… but we’re willing to learn anything;
- We don’t just take what we are told at face value. We want to dissect information and share it with the world in a way that is easy to digest, understand, and directly apply; and
- Teachers look at the world in a way that is unique… backwards. We see the result and then want to understand how we got there.
Learning About Anything
This is an important trait to model for our students. Learn about anything that interests you, even if you’re “just an art or music teacher.” My students were so surprised to find out that I am a “jock.” I’m their art teacher, how would I know about sports? In the middle of an Arts Integration lesson, at least one student always asks, “Wait, isn’t this art class? Why are we doing Science?”
It is up to us to explain to them that we can be many things and that the puzzle pieces connect to make up who we are; that nobody has just one interest, one passion, one job, one task, or one thought. It is important for those students who also have many interests to realize that you don’t have to fit into a box and you don’t have to pick just one thing to be.
I try to emulate this idea and I’m sure you do as well. We are all better when we know more. That is what teachers are supposed to think, I guess, but how do we show that to our students? We show this by trying new things, embracing the noise of life, and by finding interests in all areas. It is a benefit to be well-rounded, and well-rounded means learning at least a little bit about anything you feel passionate about.
You will always seek truth and fact, valuing knowledge and seeking it voluntarily. Shying way from work and rigor is not in your vocabularly, never just tossing your hands up and giving up on learning. You will learn about any issue, topic, historical event, and moment in time and you will perpetuate this, transferring it to your students. This also goes for other teachers as well. My coworkers were just as surprised as my students to learn that I played competitive sports, loved history, valued math, embraced science, and demanded accurate grammar and spelling in my classes.
What I hope to share is that the arts encompass all areas of the world, from the large spaces to the nooks and crannies. We, as teachers, embrace all students and their minds. We promote critical thinking and encourage independence. Your students will understand how to become a Lifelong Learner because they have someone like you to look up to.
So embrace the Buzz in Buzzword. Dance into a world where knowledge is power and power is being able to learn about anything our hearts desire. When interested in something, find out more – as much as you are able – and spread the knowledge like we know how to do. Realize that we are the models of lifelong learning and hold that mantel tight. Go forward into this world of education knowing that the little things that you project can have a huge impact.
You are the ones that chart the way and others will follow.
Lauren Hodson is a middle school visual and computer art educator in Plymouth, Massachusetts. As a mentor teacher and professional development presenter, Lauren is passionate about creativity and making art accessible for everyone. Her passions in STEAM and Arts Integration are at the root of her goal to collaborate with classroom teachers everywhere.