Sometimes it is in the simplest of conversations or actions that we learn the most. But that learning can only take place if we are truly open to it. Our opportunity to learn should be constant and not encumbered by our own decision of whether the situation we are in, or person we are talking to, is worthy of that openness. In other words, we need to park our ego and open our minds to a different perspective. .
We are challenged on two fronts to be open to learning. Our ego is the first culprit. For leaders and dare I say all educators, the ability to park their ego and be open and ready to learn is essential. Learning does not just come from the guru heard at a conference or the latest book read. Although these professional learning opportunities should always be available and accessed, learning opportunities surround us everyday. It is not just compartmentalized in a classroom or a course. It occurs in everyday conversations and interactions and often arrives in front of us from the most unlikely of candidates. Our professional colleagues certainly provide us with occasions to learn but what about parents or students, our educational assistants, bus drivers or custodians? We are surrounded with some very knowledgeable sages if we just stop and listen. Sadly, our ego (especially those of us with education degrees) prevents us sometimes from looking beyond a person’s lack of “credentials” in the educational field and we tune out! Wow…what a missed opportunity yet, realistically parking our ego should be fairly easy to overcome. Once we truly believe that all people, no matter their education or background can contribute to our learning, we’ve eliminated that barrier.
The more difficult challenge is learning when listening to an opposing viewpoint, especially one that is diabolically opposite to our own. It is interesting that we want our students to have multiple perspectives and yet we sometimes hold on to only one world view. We look for relevance within the minutia instead of finding relevance in all that we encounter. Covey’s “seek first to understand before being understood” provides us with a strategy to hear and learn. If our goal is learning, then it isn’t about ramming our opinion down another’s throat but rather gaining a different or fresh perspective. Understanding doesn’t mean you agree, it just means you understand! With all the hate in our world, can you imagine what would happen if we just gained some alternative perspectives and little more understanding?
It is important to realize that there exists a learning opportunity in every conversation we have, every person we meet and every situation we face. Open to learning must be a core competency taught in our schools. But it can only be taught in our schools if we as educators and leaders are open to it ourselves! Challenge yourself this week to be more open to learning!