Becoming a Learner
I had the opportunity recently to read a truly incredible book entitled Becoming a Learner: Realizing the Opportunity of Education by Matthew L. Sanders. Being a college student myself, this really opened my mind, and heart, up to more effective learning. School can be hard. So often it feels as though the only reason we’re going to school is to get a good grade, so we don’t have a bad life later on. School is just a means to an end, an end sometimes we’re not so sure we want. This is the attitude many of us have towards education, but it doesn’t have to be that way, as this book taught me.
Sanders begins by describing how, particularly in college, we feel as though we need to gain all of the skills and have all of the facts memorized to succeed in our future career. This is simply not the case. Many employers don’t care what degree you have. Sanders uses the example of a news agency director who said “I can teach anybody how to write a good news story. I’m looking for… people who are problem solvers.” (1). He then tells another story about one of the greatest recruiters in the computer science industry. When he explained the secret to his success, he stated, “Hire honors history majors instead of C+ computer science majors” (1).
Technology and knowledge are constantly shifting and advancing. While gaining a solid foundation is important, much of what you learn before graduating college will become obsolete within a few years. However, college is not useless. Through education we are enabled to become learners, or people who are able to learn and actually enjoy learning.
Recruiters and managers want to find people who can problem solve, thick critically and analytically, work with a team, and handle responsibility. Learners can do anything because they’ve learned the soft skills and have come to appreciate the act of learning as more than a simple checklist.
We are curious beings. Fulfillment comes when we come to better understand the world around us and how we can effectively make a mark on that world. The sooner we become a learner the better as we will gain greater confidence and simply enjoy our educational experience more and more.
So how does one become a learner? A good first step is to change your attitude and thoughts about school. Sanders suggests that we avoid thinking things like “I’m going to college so I can get a good job”, “In the real world…”, or “When I’m done with school…” (21-30) because each of these thoughts turn school into a checklist item rather than the incredible opportunity it is. While in school you have the opportunity to have your mind opened to all sorts of possibilities and ideas. Not everybody has that chance, so don’t abuse it. Love it!
It’s also a good idea to surround yourself with people who also love to learn. John Green, a popular author and YouTuber, gave a Ted Talk in which he explained his experience with education. He discusses how he struggled a great deal as a student in his early years. “And then, when I was in tenth grade,” he said, “I went to this school, Indian Springs School, a small boarding school, outside of Birmingham, Alabama. And all at once I became a learner. And I became a learner, because I found myself in a community of learners.” (Green). At that point he began to love learning, regardless of whether or not he would use the information given to him in his future career because “that’s not what it’s about for me.” (Green). For him it was about the possibilities and opportunities that were being opened for him. As he grows up, he continues to seek out learning communities he can be a part of because it helps his future to remain open and encourages him to be better.
So, there are your starting points. Once you’ve changed your attitude about learning, hopefully with the support of those in your social circle, you are on your way to becoming a learner. Learning doesn’t have to be a chore. It can open your eyes to a whole new way of seeing the world and your own future. Take advantage of it!
Green, J. (2012, November). “The nerd’s guide to learning everything online”. Retrieved February 23, 2019, from https://www.ted.com/talks/john_green_the_nerd_s_guide_to_learning_everything_online /transcript#t-347021
Sanders, M. L. (2018). Becoming a learner: Realizing the opportunity of education. Plymouth, MI: Macmillan Learning Curriculum Solutions.