A recent experience gave me an opportunity to reflect about the learning process. I took
a class to learn how to use the software I purchased to design my website. I was
the dunce of the class, frequently two or more steps behind my classmates. I
was befuddled as the teacher gave instructions that others in the class understood,
but I did not.
It reminded me of my first trip to Japan, in 1982, when I did not know
a word of the language. However,
during my six weeks there, I spent much time, especially on trains, looking
at the writing and comparing it to phonetic translations into English.
I learned to say a few phrases. By the end of the trip, I was able to say a few things
in Japanese and read several signs. I was as excited as a little kid
who pokes his mother’s arm, pointing to a billboard, and saying, “Look, Mommy, there’s
These experiences have served me well. I became sensitized to the joy
that children feel when
they are learning, as well as the need for the teacher to make sure that all children
are understanding instructions. Adults who continue
to be learners can realize two benefits. First of all, we become role models to the
young people in our lives. Secondly, when we are in the position of student,
it helps us to understand what it is like for children to be
In 1899, the United States Patent Office made a statement that must have
seemed to make sense at
the time: everything that could possibly be invented had already been invented.
Looking back over the last 100 years, we can see the folly of such a
statement. Yet, many of
us approach our own lives with the attitude that we have already learned everything
that we need to learn.
Whether you are a parent or a teacher, these are points to which you can
be attuned. Your awareness
of the learner’s frame of mind can make a difference in his ability
to continue learning and feel an accomplishment.
This column has been incorporated into Teach Your Children Well: A Teacher’s