There is a constant about being a lifelong learner and that is you are never done! Learning occurs over the lifespan for those who choose to continue on this journey of never being satisfied with what you know. As one becomes older, I think it becomes more about what you realize you do not know – and a quest to find out – rather than resting on what you do know and coasting.
To clarify, I am not saying that it is bad to feel one is an expert or competent in what one knows, but just that if you deem yourself a life long learner you are probably constantly on a quest to learn more – learn “deeper” and learn about those subjects you realize you do not understand as fully as you would like.
This is a stage in which I find myself now. I know a lot. I have advanced degrees in two seemingly different disciplines that I have come to realize are more closely related than one would think – the nursing of children or Child Health, and Environmental Education. To boil their connections down to simple terms, to have healthy children (and this means their minds, as well as their bodies), we need to sustain their engagement in the natural world. Without knowing it, I was informally doing that for the last 24 years, first with my own children, and then with those in my community.
Over time, with experience and the seeking of knowledge in specific subject areas, I have gained deep knowledge in the areas of Life Science and Monarch Conservation. This has not been the result of tunnel vision, but more from a seeking of connection to awe-inspiring natural world events such as monarch migration, monarch metamorphosis, and self-edification. Yes, I attended school. Yes, I enjoyed formal learning. But, much of what I know and continue to rely upon in a new professional capacity comes from knowledge I have sought out to learn on my own. This is called self-directed learning.
I am thankful that all three of my boys have learned this ability – to delve deeply into a subject matter and teach themselves what they want to learn, in a manner they can best understand it – whether that be from a book, from watching a video, or laying hands on a project. All three of them will be highly successfully due to this ability to self-teach and learn. I used to think schools were essential for learning to happen. Now, I am almost sure that for some very self-directed individuals, they are not. If we look back through history, I believe that hunch would be proven. But, that is a topic for a different post.
It is first through this self-directed learning and then forming connections to those we meet on our life’s journey that lends success. Because my background is varied, it allows me to form connections with those in an audience. My experience this week during a presentation validated my understanding of this. The audience was able to see me as a person, not just a new professional, and related questions accordingly. I was not seen as a newbie who knew nothing, but rather a person with practical expertise in knowledge that supports my field of environmental education and my position with a local land trust. In addition, it was refreshing to have audience members ask for my contact information and later receive emails that were offering introductions to others in our community so we can start to formulate some joint projects.
I know I have a lot to learn. But, as with most important things in life, this realization will spur me on a journey to new knowledge. I have become fascinated with birds, raptors and birds of prey specifically. There has been a hawk visitor to our dry creek bed for over a month now. At first, I thought he was another species, but I now believe he is either a Cooper’s Hawk (my best guess) or a Red-tailed Hawk. He is back this morning in “his” tree, high above the creek bed floor. Yesterday, we travelled to the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota, where I was able to glean more information about the bird that is our majestic National Symbol.
Recently, I stood in our bathroom at work, where there is a poster of grass nesting birds, a group of birds that have diminished greatly in recent times, and took notes. I know close to nothing about those birds, but want to learn. I possess an understanding of what has happened to our environment and consequently species like monarchs, grass nesting birds, and others. It is the realization of what I do not know that will help me to be successful in the future.
Yes, I know a lot – about certain things. Yes, I need to learn more about those subjects for which I do not know much. Knowing this gives me the confidence and inspiration to continue my journey as a lifelong learner. Finding connections between the known and unknown, and to others who feel the same, will support me on the way.
Are you still learning? Tell me about it in the comments! I’d love to know what you have chosen to learn about.