To life-long learning and facing fears


Image Me Tossing Graduation Hat
Tossing Graduation Hat

“You look like a student”

A colleague once said this to me. I know it is subject to different interpretations, but I took it as a compliment. I took it to mean I look young and carefree. I know being a student is not one of the cool things, so is being young. Am I weird or am I weird? It reminded me of Monica Lewinsky Ted Talk of March 2015, at the Forbes under 30 Summit. She shared a joke about being hit on by a 27year old when she was 40. The dude was charming and all, and his unsuccessful pick up line was “I could make you feel 22 again!” Ms Monica recalls as she thought about it later in the day she realised she is probably the only person over 40 who does not wish to be 22 again. Of course she was thinking about the ordeal she went through at the age of 22.

Now back to the compliment!

“I am a student of life”

…was my response. Let us stop and think about how far our basic formal education can take us. For me after 12 years of schooling apart from passing the exams I was prepared for, I could read and write. And yes I could speak English well. It is considered a language of prestige, you know what I mean! I was among the few who could make it to university so the skills and knowledge I had acquired were going to evolve. I continue to learn for personal growth and professional development.

And everybody else who can’t make it beyond year 10 or 12…

I think as teachers we find ourselves facing the predicament of trying to squeeze into the limited time, some lessons that our students can carry with them into the real world once they have passed the exam. The incident that follows is confirmation that our efforts are not enough. This post was inspired by an event I witnessed at the bank one day.

A woman came in to make a deposit of P1000 into her employer’s account. She was a domestic worker and the lady she worked for was nursing a newborn baby and could not leave the house.

My character walks to the last person in the queue and presents her story. The gentleman picks the appropriate form and hands it over to her adding that it is going to be easy to complete the deposit slip since she had a copy from the previous deposit. She did not seem convinced. She stood there for a while, inspecting both forms. The next customer came in and joined the queue and she turned to her. The security guard [probably feeling obliged to assist] joined them and at this point I did not have to eavesdrop. I was interested in the case because I instantly become dull when I have to fill in forms, including routine ones. So I felt really sorry for this woman. I applaud her employer because she had done everything she could to make the exercise as less traumatic as possible. The amount to be deposited was the same, even the denominations. But still this was a nightmare. I don’t know how I managed to keep my teacher hat away that long.

I know how filling in forms can make one break a sweat instantly. At least that is how I used to react when I was faced with the task. The longest form I have had to fill in, which was the ultimate in making me overcome my phobia was an application form for a student visa [to study in Australia]. The form was 24 pages long, consisting of 78 questions [Thank God a few of them were not applicable in my case]. Some things will just make you do them. The realisation that we are only limited by how much we are prepared to keep going can be a life changing experience.

Apart from the incident of the woman at the bank, there are countless other situations that people find themselves in, which test their level of perseverance and force them to do things they never thought they could do. A significant number quits I bet. This post aims to acknowledge the phobias we have about small things that others may often take for granted. Why can’t we all be doers? Movers and shakers? Pity life just wasn’t meant to be fair but…

We could try the life-long learning

Life-long learning is a skill that we all have to embrace regardless of how far we went in the education ladder. A degree becomes obsolete in a couple of years if the holder does not do anything to improve their knowledge and acquire new skills. The ultimate result is an incompetent individual who lacks open mindedness and becomes a liability to their organisation. I am no life coach, but I find reading to be one way of self empowerment, even if you read just a few lines a day. Personally I have found a lot of inspiration in the random, short stories that I accidentally stumbled upon from very old unattractive books and magazines.

Image of Me Reading in the Library
Reading Inside Baillieu Library

You are equipped with the literacy skills from basic education. This means you can read [and write]. So there is no excuse. Now go face your fears. Explore your talents. Volunteer in a task you have absolutely no knowledge in. Start a new hobby. You could try bungee jumping. [That might be too drastic]. Just keep learning.

Bear in mind you are not in competition with anyone. You just want to be better than the person you were yesterday.

The poor woman in the story was crippled by fear.


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