Education: What Did You Learn Today?

by Sandra Fletcher

When I was in school my Mother baked a cake for my class Christmas Party. It was a beautiful cake shaped like a Christmas Tree with deep green icing. The cake was delicious and we ate it all – only realizing when we’d finished that the deep green had left a lasting impression and each and every one of us had green stained teeth!

My mother had learned how to make the cake at her Cake Decorating class she took at the community centre each week. She learned from her mistakes and never used quite that much food coloring in any of her other creations. Throughout the years we were treated to all kinds of elaborate birthday, wedding and anniversary cakes – with giant elephants and coconut butterflies and my Mom’s specialty - icing sugar roses!

Many experts believe that my Mom had the right idea. It is important for people to continually learn new things – from Cake Decorating to Brain Surgery.

But why?

The concept of lifelong learning suggests that we shouldn’t just divide our lives up into two chunks: school (where we learn) and work (where we use what we have learned).

Sounds simple but, why is lifelong learning so important? I am a believer that in order to succeed in life you need to continue to learning throughout your life.

What you learn and how you learn are not important. The main idea is that you need to be open to new things and constantly questioning the world.

In a video presentation called “Did You Know”, teacher Karl Fisch took the fact that “the amount of technical information is doubling every four years” and estimated that “for students starting a four year technical degree, this means that half of what they learn in their first year of study will be outdated by their third year of study”. So, without lifelong learning, there is no way we can keep up with new developments and new knowledge in the modern world.

Tips for Lifelong Learning

I’ve often started team meetings with my staff by asking “what did you learn this week?” What you learned could have been at home or at work or even about yourself. Why I asked my colleagues this question was to have them look at how they grew – even over a week. If you didn’t learn anything today, why did you even bother to get out of bed?

Make the decision to keep learning. Take the first step and decide to commit yourself to learning new things. Look for new experiences and put yourself in situations where you’ll have to learn something new.

Choose to take risks and go out of your way to get out of your comfort zone and you’ll learn.

In your face

Communicating with people, especially new people, is a great way to learn. We all communicate differently, and we all have something worth teaching. When you are out and meeting new people, every one is just waiting to teach you something. You can also be a teacher. Every person has something to teach and teaching yourself will give you something you can share with others.

Try different ways to learn. Most adults learn best by doing. Some people enjoy reading while others would rather take a class and interact with people while they learn. You can mix up the ways you learn. Not only will this help you learn about yourself, it can help to keep you interested in the concept of learning.

Where to look

There are so many courses you can take depending on what you are interested in. Some take courses to further their careers. You can learn more about your chosen field by taking courses that could help your chances for a promotion. Or, you could take a course in something completely unrelated and train for a whole new career or just enjoy an interesting hobby.

Some people like to take general interest courses. Things like my Mother’s cake decorating class would count as general interest courses. There are many places you can find out about these types of classes. Community centres, colleges, school boards and private companies all offer classes – some free and some not.

One of the biggest challenges when coming to a new country can be mastering the language. There are classes for those who speak English as a second language and are provided through a number of agencies. In addition, you can practice your English skills in workshops and by communicating with the other students.

A great area to explore is fitness! You can use what you know and play soccer or learn a new skill like karate, aquafit or even how to scuba dive. You don’t need to be an expert or even a beginner to try group fitness. Sometimes just participating is half the fun.

Sometimes classes teach new skills. Sometimes they just expand on what you already know. Still, all provide a space for socialization. Meeting new people is a learning experience in itself.

You win some, you lose some

You don’t need to master everything you do and sometimes the act of learning is what’s important. Sure, there are things you may need to learn for your job, but don’t feel like you need to become an expert at everything you try.

If you take risks, which, by the way, is a great way to learn, you’ll likely make mistakes. There is nothing wrong with that, you’ll learn much more from a mistake made than you will from never trying.

Learning is one of the keys to achieving success in life. We learn from the past; we learn from books; we learn from people; and, we learn most things through experience and making mistakes. The famous Musician B.B. King said “The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.”

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