Lifelong Learning

lifelong learner

In the course of our Academic Planning process, I had a number of great conversations with faculty colleagues about our fourth priority:  Fuel academic and career success by cultivating curiosity, a passion for growth and learning, perseverance, fun, and a sense of purpose.  Specifically, we had animated discussions about the pros and cons of including the word, “fun”.   Those opposed were concerned that it would further fuel an expectation that faculty members are accountable for entertaining their students, or performing a sort of theatre to keep them amused.  For the record, that’s not at all the way I see our job as educators!  I do, however, think we’re accountable for developing lifelong learners.  In my experience, that task is propelled by learning environments and experiences that are enjoyable.

My Mom is the most engaged, enthusiastic lifelong learner I know.  Last Sunday, at the age of 73, she was ordained at a small Anglican church in Baysville, Ontario.  It was a lovely and celebratory day, entirely befitting a woman who has dedicated her life to supporting kids, families, and the broader health of her communities.  After completing high school, she earned an undergraduate degree in Nursing at Western University; thereafter, she completed her skills training at Sick Kids Hospital and joined the clinical faculty at McMaster University.  When my Dad was transferred to the U.S., she was ineligible for paid employment so filled her days volunteering at a Settlement House and starting a helpline for parents who were at risk of committing child abuse.  When we moved back to Ontario, she began a long and celebrated career as a leader in child welfare and finished a graduate degree in clinical psychology.  Despite the inherent demands of a growing family (I have three brothers, two of whom were adopted as adolescents) and a job that had her working very long hours, I don’t remember a time when my Mom wasn’t actively pursuing learning opportunities through governance work, volunteerism, and part-time teaching assignments.

Suffice to say that my Mom’s recent ordination is only the latest example of her commitment to being an educated, learned citizen. Several years ago, she started talking to mentors and advisors about her aspirations to be a faith-leader.  With the benefit of great coaching and support, she started taking on-line courses in Theology and volunteering to support the aged and sick in northern Ontario.  A lot of that work is challenging and complex; it draws on her skills as a former nurse, child welfare advocate, a family therapist, and a woman of faith.  Combined, her investment in learning has had a holistic, significant, and transformational impact on a huge number of people — young and old.

If you were to ask my Mom about her curiosity, her passion for growth and learning, her perseverance, and/or her sense of purpose … she would tell you that she’s driven by her personal mission to be a good person and give back.  That is, quite simply, why she’s the woman I admire most in the world.  She would also say, unabashedly, that learning is fun.