Lifelong learning is not for everyone. Some people prefer to read a newspaper that has more gossip than actual world news and haven’t picked up a book or taken a course since college. For other people, life isn’t worth living if they must stop learning – to them, that’s like a slow death. They feel alive when they learn new things and it invigorates them. They never want to stop and who can blame them?
Some Develop the Learning Habit Early, Others Much Later
Sometimes, we develop the habit of reading as a child and never lose it. I was discovered engrossed in one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five novels at the age of eight. My mother was very surprised. I had read so much of the book that she bought it for me that I’d finished it on the ride home. I’d never shown an interest in reading up until that point and didn’t enjoy reading projects from school.
For other people, they suffer through English Language classes at school and study the textbooks at college. They then breathe a sigh of relief when they can put them down again. The reason is simple: they were learning to learn. They were not learning because they chose to or because of the enjoyment,it gave them. The motivations were very different and that matters greatly.
Childhood experiences often colourwhen we got the learning habit. The sheer availability of knowledge at our fingertips now through the power of Google is impressive, but we still need help in organisingit and forming an understanding. A two-page article on programming won’t teach you how to write a mobile app. Only a substantial learning resource can help with that. Dipping in and out won’t work because the topic is too complex.
Little and Often is Better Than Sporadic and Unpredictable
Unlike with cramming for exams using an overnight study session complete with energy drinks and matchsticks for eyes, enjoying learning is something that should (eventually) come naturally. Rather than huge binge reading or learning sessions through sports coaches or subject tutors, the best learning is done using the principle of little and often.
The idea with little and often is that you learn in bite-sized chunks rather than trying to digest the whole subject in one huge bite. Lifelong learning that’s pursued steadily 5+ days of the week in 1-2-hour sessions is likely to remain enjoyable and instructive. Recalling the information later and putting it to practical use is likely to happen when only taking new information in a little bit at a time.
It’s easier for the human brain to sort, assimilate and store new information during REM sleep and be able to readily recall what was learned the night before at the next session. Trying to cram information in is less enjoyable and doesn’t satisfy, as any student will happily remind you! It’s also harder to recall later.
Find the Link Between Learning and Teaching
At a certain point, you have acquired enough working knowledge on a subject that the student could become the teacher. It has been said that picking up information is fine, but applying it is what turns information into wisdom. When you’ve become wise, it’s an interesting turning point because there are truth nuggets to impart toother eager learners.
There are also karmic rewards because enlightening others with information they find useful has a huge feel-good factor that’s not to be discounted. Whether that’s a posting on a forum sharing knowledge or finding another outlet to assist other people, it just feels rewarding.
Learning to Love the Way of the Educator
Going from being a student to an educator isn’t always an easy step. It often takes longer than expected and it’s more of a journey. However, it’s one worth taking when being an educator feels like a calling and not just a possible vocation. Seeing a student’s eyes open wide when they finally understand a key point is a magical thing. Or, seeing the student’s understanding when they’re visibly connecting the dots of disparate facts and transforming that into a mosaic in their mind they can reference, is pleasing.
When a school teacher says that “they do it for the kids”, other educators nod in silent understanding. Many of us have a fondly-remembered teacher from our school days who got us over the hump when we stumbled on a tricky factoid. In many ways, we secretly wish to be that special tutor or teacher for someone else.
Finding the Flow Using What You Know
If you want to become an educator in some capacity, what should you teach? Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow, the secret to happiness, has written and given a TED talk about getting into a flow state. The simplest way to describe the flow state is when you’ve become so engrossed in an activity that you lose all track of time. Your work colleagues are heading out to lunch and stop by your cubicle and you’re surprised it is lunchtime already. Or, you started reading the latest John Grisham legal thriller at home and the afternoon completely disappeared. That’s flow.
With finding the subjects that you might want to teach, you should ask yourself whether there’s one that you can really get into the flow with? A subject that you love or have an enduring fascination for is ideal to teach to other people. A passion for a topic is always going to come across to students and that passion is often contagious. It’s like a secret sauce – they want to know what it tastes like. When you have a subject matter that grips you in that way, then it’s time to see if you can teach that professionally.
Becoming a Tutor
There are more options than ever to help students with home tuition on a topic they need help with or have a desireto learn more about. When they want to find a tutor, they can look online at a site like Superprof which has many tutors able to teach face-to-face in a one-on-one session. Thanks to websites like Superprof, it’s incredibly easy to find tutors of a high quality. Private tutors can also teach using video streaming, which requires a webcam and a headset to see and hear each other.
You can see what categories a teaching site covers. Maybe they have a subject category that matches your knowledge or passion. You never know if you don’t consider it. It’s certainly a good way to make some extra money to go towards a holiday or long-term savings. The better tutors can even make a full-time living if they teach a popular topic, receive good ratings from their students, and put the effort into it.
It’s wonderful to enjoy learning new things. There is so much out there to educate yourself, there’s no excuse for failing to apply yourself. Knowledge is no longer restricted to the select few who can afford high-priced college tuition or who run in the right circles. We can all now delve deep into topics of interest because, due to the scope of the internet, there’s bound to be other people we can connect with. They’ll either know more than you or are eager to share what they’ve learned so far. The only sad thing is that many people wish they’d become a lifelong learner sooner in life and hadn’t waited so long to start. Never mind. Make up for lost time now.