Cultivating a Learning Culture, Part 1: It Starts with You
By: Lisa M. Clark
The first post of “The Lifelong Learner” blog explored the meaning behind this familiar phrase. But claiming to be a lifelong learner is easier than putting it into practice. Like most lifestyles or habits we want to adopt, it takes practice. It takes intentionality. It takes a mindset that, in this case, fosters a love of learning and a willingness to act on it. So to continue my introductory posts of setting the tone for our lifelong learning discussion, I’d like to talk a little about creating a climate for lifelong learning. (Have I mentioned my affinity for alliteration?)
How do we become lifelong learners? Put another way, what traits mark the life of learning? Here are a few points to keep in mind as you endeavor to foster your own lifelong learning lifestyle. (Okay, I’ll stop.)
- Dedicate time. In contrast to the “me first” worldview of our culture, many of us feel a pang of guilt if we put our own interests before others. After all, our Savior’s own life on earth is characterized by sacrifice and putting others first (Mark 10:45). As a side effect of putting ourselves after others, if we enjoy doing something, we often put it last on our list of things to do. Love to learn? It can wait.
The problem with that, of course, is that the low priorities for our lives never get done. Dusting underneath the upright piano is probably okay to delay. But things such as learning often suffers the same treatment. Consider, however, how our learning can benefit others. We want our doctors to know the updates to medicine, right? We would like our car mechanics to be familiar with the latest models. The same is true for us in whatever vocations we have as we serve others.
So take that time to learn something new. Block out thirty minutes on your calendar to read an article or two. Invest the time in an eight-week course at your local library. Plan a four-year strategy for completing that certification. Big or small, dedicate the time you can currently afford to learning something new on a regular basis.
- Be accountable. Telling yourself that you will commit to learning is one thing. Telling someone else is different entirely. Find a friend with similar interests, and go to the class together. Read a book of the Bible, and text your sister when you gain a new insight. Tell your company that you’re going to take them up on their education incentive. (There’s accountability for you.) The best part of telling othersthat you are learning is that it gives you an opportunity to tell others what you are learning. I mentioned this last post: a learning lifestyle is contagious.
- Dedicate space. Distractions are everywhere. If you’re like me, it’s all too easy to forget to take time and learn something new if the desk is covered in papers, the couch is covered in laundry, and the only things actually stored away are the books. Find a corner in the office, a corner in the house, or a corner down the street. Discover which environment nurtures a good learning habitat for you, and create a place you look forward to visiting so that you can take some time to hone your skills.
- Be flexible. Let’s be realistic. There will be times when you miss your calendar appointment to sit and read. There will be weeks that go by without a text to the sibling. There will be times when the laundry needs more attention. Acknowledge it: not as an excuse but as a matter of fact. After all, we’re human. We will not be perfect at this, and assuming so will only set us up for failure. Instead of stopping out of frustration, we press on in our learning goals, modifying our strategies and learning as we go. (See? Even the process can become a learning experience!)
- Dedicate funds. This one isn’t easy, is it? It’s difficult enough to budget time out of our week, but money out of our wallet? That can be trickier. Before you move on to a kitten meme or online quiz, though, think about it. Sometimes, it takes a little skin in the game to add motivation. Plus, learning is valuable, right? So it can cost some money from time to time. This doesn’t mean, of course, that you have to go into debt in order to know a thing or two. Just as you considered what time you were able to budget, consider the same for your money. Some years, that budget might account for a book or two. Other years, it could be a subscription to an academic journal or membership to a learning community. You may even have those times when an additional degree is a possibility. Whatever it is, at least give some thought to the stewardship of what many call professional development. And during the years when a book is the limit, take solace in the fantastic free resources that you can find at your fingertips.
Okay, I’m going to take some of my own advice and try point #2. Hi, there, blog reader! I’m going to endeavor to post to “The Lifelong Learner” every other Tuesday. As we progress through the posts together, I’ll eventually move beyond some basics and consistently share with you some examples of what I think is top-notch lifelong learning. I hope you join me and hold me accountable. I look forward to learning with you.
Concordia Publishing House (CPH) is the publishing arm of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. For 145 years, CPH has provided individuals, churches, and schools with products that are faithful to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. From books and Bibles to church supplies, curriculum, and software, CPH offers more than 8,000 products to support the proclamation of the Gospel worldwide. Visit CPH online at cph.org.