Sunday, May 31, 2009

Why I do what I do

Learning rocks.

Let me say that again.

Learning new things rocks. It's a buzz. Learning gives me a thrill. When I learn something new I feel good.

It doesn't matter if that is an immediate and interesting fact that won't materially change my life*, or the slow dawning that things I have read weeks or months ago are coming together in my head to be synthesized in to a powerful new understanding that I know will make my personal or professional lives easier, more productive or just plain better.

I suspect, or at least hope, that you also know this, as learning is a fundamental part of our lives, for I suspect that you, like me, are in the learning trade. Sadly, being a part of the trade does not in itself confirm an interest in learning*2, or mean that someone even shares the buzz that I feel - but I suspect that in your case it does. Why am I so presumptious? Well, you have gone out of your way to read something on an esoteric topic by a writer of no repute because something I have said at some point has resonated with you, or someone you trust, and as a result I have ended up on a blogroll or feedreader somewhere. You're not likely to be here by chance.

If we are lucky our jobs provide us with the reason, means and opportunity to learn. If we are less so, then perhaps it may offer one or two of those things. If we are blessed then we work for people who not only allow us the freedom to learn, but who are also actively a part of the process by which we develop and grow.

If someone is truly unlucky then they do not share our interest in, or enjoyment of, learning. For whatever reason those people have been turned away from learning, more than likely due to fear through association with things that have not been pleasant, helpful or explicitly worthwhile. Sadly then, the remarkable faculties that all humans are born with (to a lesser or greater extent) turn to other perhaps less positive activities, and potential withers or is subverted.

Because I love learning, and because circumstance (but not, I suspect, chance) has led me to a job where my love is my work, I see myself as a champion of learning - a learning evangelist as we might put it these days. Someone who has to go out there and make the case for learning. In doing so I have to recognise the limits of my influence and work within them to make sure that opportunities and reasons for learning and improvement are created and/or taken. I want to nuture 'the buzz' and create the circcumstances for more people to feel the way that I do about learning.

As with many things, giving learning at least as good as receiving it.

My tools are irrelevant - classrooms or online, studybooks or presentations. My power comes from study and understanding of how we learn and understand: learning begets learning. Buzz leads to buzz. Am I a learning pusher? I might be.

So, what is it that motivates you? Is it the buzz? If not, what brought you to the trade?*3

* The 'l' at the end of the name of my wonderful hometown, Bristol, is there because of the infamous local accent - it added that, and took away a 'g' from the old name 'Brigstowe'. I love that fact.

*2 It's my experience that there are a great many people for whom the learning trade, more likely 'training business', is a) profit making b) easy c) comfortable d) about power e) is 'creative' (even if it's not quite what they really wanted to do - ie broadcast media) f) just something to do. Yes, there is no reason why it can't also be some of these things, but let's not forget the primary motive, eh?

*3 Trade not profession? Far too full of cowboys, quacks and hacks. Myself included. You're excluded from that description mind you - you're undoubtedly a professional of great integrity.

This post was born out of discussions with my wife, observation of my son's development, numerous blog posts by many writers, especially a couple by Dave Pollard and particularly one by Donald Clark recommending TV show 'The Wire', feedback from some student clients recently, occasional discussions on and offline, satisfaction born of seeing postulated thoughts being confirmed, and so on. It started out in my head as something quite concrete and got a bit fanciful. It might read badly, but hey, this is my reflective learning space and I'll reflect how I want to - sorry. Now, I have to grab the shopping bags and get down 'Asdawl', as the locals say.