Saturday, May 23, 2009
The School of Life
As I get older, I frequently contemplate the skills I would like to learn before I die. It’s not really a long list, but it is pretty specific. I’d like to learn and become fairly proficient at knitting and crocheting. I’d also like to learn how to play some other musical instruments, especially the flute, the cello and the violin. (A few years ago my wish was to learn guitar, but after several lessons, I just couldn’t “get it,” and surrendered that dream.) The rest of my goals are concentrated around the desire to just be productive and learn new techniques in skills that I already possess - my quilting, cross-stitch, harp playing. I also have a list of things that I have no interest in learning - gardening, scrapbooking, cooking, or how to install car seats. And why should I? I have my sister, my daughter-in-law, my husband, and my daughter respectively who have mastered these skills with passion and perfection. I will just bask in their glory.
But I’m thinking these days mostly about the violin. It is such a beautiful instrument, and so wonderfully portable, too. Caroline, my 6-year-old precocious granddaughter, has taken violin lessons for months now, and she has shown talent along with a keen interest (always a good combination). Therein lies the rub. Sweet little kindergartner Caroline can play the violin. I can’t.
When did that happen? I’m supposed to be the teacher here. Every time I visit, I teach her a new vocabulary word. I teach her about Lincoln, sing her special songs, teach her French and quilting. All of a sudden, here she is, gaining skill at something I know nothing about. It’s humbling - and intriguing.
Almost everything I learned about the computer and other technology has been from my son, Matt, starting when he was in junior high school. Sure, I was older and he was younger, but age didn’t matter. He was willing to teach, and I was anxious to learn. One of these days, I will be ready to learn the fundamentals of playing the violin. And at that point, the tables will be turned, and Caroline will share her knowledge with me.
Even though I never stayed in college, I’ve always considered myself a learner for life (the only difference being that now I learn what I want to learn and not what I have to learn). I think the key to lifelong learning is the openness to allow others to teach, sometimes in unconventional ways, sometimes by unconventional methods. Those who have the skill and willingness to teach are blessings to those of us who continually want to learn. The older I get, the younger some of my teachers will become - that just goes without saying. There are actually people who think there is nothing new or exciting to learn, or that they are too old to learn, or that there is no one worthy enough to teach them anything. How sad!
Part of the wonder of my job as a medical transcriptionist is that every day I learn new things. I love all the parts of learning - anticipation, learning on my own from books and web sites, having things explained to me where they make sense, the “aha” moment of understanding, and finally, the last and ever-continuing step in learning - the teaching to someone else what I have learned. And the cycle continues.
Forever student, forever teacher. Sounds like a good plan to me.