Learning is an exciting life-long journey of discovery, full of wonder and awe inspiring. It begins at birth and ends in death, albeit many people are of the view that learning begins within foetal consciousness and continues post death, as we make the transition to complete enlightenment. I have always considered myself to be a facilitator of learning: a teacher, an educator, a trainer, an instructor; it does not really matter what term we use to describe what we do, we are those individuals who weave the magic that happens for each individual in the interface between teaching and learning.
I have always been first and foremost an educator, someone who relishes the opportunity to share knowledge, skills, experience and the cumulative of all these, wisdom. I have always seen this not only as a privilege but also a gift, I have considered what I do as a vocation, making a difference to the lives of others by enabling them to acquire knowledge, to develop an intellectual understanding which in turn leads to a seeking of truth in all aspects of life. This not only empowers human kind but is the fulfilment of our noblest human endowment, the power to know. This should not just be applied to our periods of formal education but in every facet of our life and work. We are always learning and should encourage everyone to learn, ‘to be the best that they can be’, to realise their potential and to use their informed human reason to act morally in the interests of others.
When I was at school a great teacher gave me a book entitled ‘Discovery’ one he had written describing his love of learning and how his pursuit of truth had translated into a love of others, into selfless action and a life of dedication to education, and to making a difference to the lives of the poor, the marginalised and the vulnerable. In the front of the book he wrote a personal message to me, it read “Ian may you always remain among those who aspire to be greater than the great and better than the best” and as a lifelong learner and educator I have tried to do this.
Educators must have great aspiration if they are to provide inspiration to those they teach, they should always try to be better than what some may consider to be the best. We must encourage those we teach or indeed anyone with whom we come in contact to be better than us: not less good than us or even as good as us but better than us in every aspect of our lives. This surely is our mission as educators, as coaches, as mentors, as teachers or instructors. If we all did this can you even contemplate the difference we would be making to our communities, to our society and to our world and if such learning was underpinned with love? Yes I said it the ‘L’ word that we seem to want to avoid in the context of education.
That passion, that drive we have in fulfilling our mission to make a difference to the lives of others through enabling them to learn, is a charitable purpose based intuitively on our love for our fellow human beings.
Charity is often referred to as being ‘needs led and beneficiary focused’, in my nearly nine years with the Red Cross this was our mantra and one that provided a guide to what we did. In essence this can be applied to most activity in life as a primary factor for ‘success’. If you are always guided by the need and you focus on exceptional outcomes for a beneficiary, you cannot go far wrong, added to which if the benefit always outweighs the cost, you and they will achieve great things.
In the world of retail, the need could be a particular product developed through an understanding of the market and the beneficiary is the customer, if you exceed their expectations you will be guaranteed repeat business. If in turn, the income generated from the benefit you provide to the customer outweighs the cost of production, you will make a profit.
If we as educators, either in more formal education or just in the fulfilment of our mission in life, always recognise the need for what we do (that need can simply be to enable individuals to be the best they can be and/or driven by industry with that added value of enabling employment) and in allowing that need to be our driver, we focus all our efforts on achieving the best outcomes for our beneficiaries who are our learners, success will surely follow in every aspect of our work. If we then add to this the desire that benefit must outweigh cost, it always will, simply because the benefit is achieved as a life changing, life enhancing difference that we have made to the lives of others in the knowledge that it is the right thing to do.
Being an educator not only enables us to be great, it also encourages others to be the best they can be as a result of gaining knowledge and understanding. It does actually change lives and has the potential to change the world, if humbly taught and willingly received. Whether we see our interventions as a vocation borne out of a love for others or whether we are just accepting what we do as a gift to be shared, it will always be great.