“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ― Dr. Seuss
“I never let schooling interfere with my education.” Attributed to Mark Twain
In the past few weeks, as I have continued my work and enjoyed a number of conversations with school leaders, this thought kept reoccurring which meant I needed to deal with it. It has to do with some of the differences between schooling and an education. I will try and keep it simple and brief without too many distracting, tangential wanderings. I can do more of those later.
In the category of “schooling” which for this purpose is the formal, structured, contained and defined programs for people, often starting in kindergarten or before, I spent 24 years in those classrooms with teachers and professors. 13 years K-12. 4 years undergraduate university. 3 years, Master’s degree. 4 more years, another Master’s degree and a Doctorate in residence at a major university. Total, 24. That’s a helluva lot of seat time plus time in libraries and laboratories, doing and writing research, outside seminars and workshops and some field studies. While most of that work was directed by others, it depended greatly on the student response for the outcome. Did I learn a lot? Absolutely. Do I still use much of it? Yes. How much? Hard to say since it was long ago and a large portion resides in my personal and professional DNA intelligence bank. Behavioral psychologists would probably call it conditioning.
Now for the part where it seems that education has more to do with hands-on experience than it does with seated classroom instruction. Schools are finally waking up to that reality and including it to one degree or another in their own systems. For this purpose, describing my own learning beyond the school, I know that it started very early with experiences outside any school walls. It had to do primarily with work and relationships and what I learned and gained from those encounters. We were asked the other day about one of our earliest political memories and I can recall World War II because everyone was caught up in that effort one way or another. Learning from experience became a theme for a brief memoir I wrote, highlighting a few watershed learning events for each of seven decades.
Try seeing what your first paid jobs taught you about work, people and yourself. My first jobs all before the age of 18, were: picking strawberries; setting pins in a bowling alley; assembling Christmas decorations for a city; working on a farm baling hay, spreading manure, feeding animals, etc; working as a clerk in a general store; working as a laborer on the railroad at age 15; lifeguard at a swimming pool; and general construction. Later on it was on the job training and then finally, training others. Work is clearly an educational experience and gives us the opportunity to learn, grow and change. Improvement was the name of the game.
Then there are the relationship learning equations, first as children in a family, then perhaps marriage followed by parenting and those experiences teach us more than we would ever have imagined about human behavior in all of its flavors. And, there are the professional relationships in our work wherein we both give and receive so many useful experiences.
The proverbial bottom line in all of this for me has been coming to the point of now what? What do we do with who we are, what we have and where we are? As a lifelong learner it is still about exploring, discovering, trying something new and different and adding to the portfolio of life experiences. On the docket this month, in addition to a little work, are lessons in photography, sketching and Spanish. Wish me luck! Oh yes, lest you think I forgot. My right hand, co-pliot and partner in all of this is mi esposa, Susana. Much credit is due to her for our shared journey.