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Sep 29

Chris Smeaton

Lifelong learning…

During your career, have you ever heard the statement, “Lifelong learning is not important!”.  Agreement with that statement would be almost like attacking “motherhood and apple pie”! It is unfathomable for educators to disagree with lifelong learning since our basic concept as educators is to always be on a learning track. I don’t have time to learn is a mockery and inconsistent with our values as educators.  

But learning in the truest sense is not always through formal education (which we may have some legitimate time constraints) but through informal means and most importantly through observing and listening. This week I begin my growth plan meetings with all of our principals and senior administration staff. I have found the vast majority of these conversations intensely rich as I listen to their own professional goals. Together we clarify strategies and reflect on what data or experiences will constitute growth and success. And although because of position, I’m expected to be the learned one, I’m always learning from these conversations.

Lifelong learning, especially in leadership requires listening. In his blog, “How Leaders Dilute Their Impact”, Dan Rockwell reminds that, “Verbosity isn’t leadership. The longer you talk, the less you lead.” Listening to others provides us with additional perspective. It allows us an alternate view or at minimum, a different angle. The same can be said for being a connected educator or simply a robust reader of blogs, articles, research and books. It is less about agreeing or disagreeing with another’s perspective and more about stretching one’s own paradigm.

One of the assignments I’ve required for my graduate students is a reflective journal or blog after each weekend class. While I cannot stress the importance of reflection in the learning process for my students, their reflections are additional learning opportunities for me. The various opinions shared both in their writings and through our class discussions force me to review my own context, debate my practices and face my own biases. It stretches me as a learner and enhances my leadership.  

Although professionals hold a body of unique knowledge, we cannot afford to ignore the many possible learning opportunities provided by our students, our parents, our support staff, business and community. Educators and especially those in leadership positions must never believe that their learning only comes from within their closed circle. Learning should not be viewed as hierarchical, where leaders only learn from leaders or those who have…written a book!

Lifelong learning comes to us moment by moment. It has a place, if we allow it, to be present in every interaction we have on a daily basis. Lifelong learning comes from listening and observing, sharing and leading. We will be unable to appreciate the magnitude of lifelong learning without attention to all the available opportunities we have to grow. There are grandiose opportunities to learn, but it is more likely that the subtle conversation with a colleague or stranger may cause the greatest shifts in our thinking. Don’t snub any possibility because lifelong learning is lifelong!

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