Self-Directed Learning

by | Essays

I was always a model student. I loved school, and I loved being a student. I still do. I love being a scholar with my pen scribbling fresh notes on innovative topics that challenge me.⁣

While teaching, I enrolled in a certificate program. It was held twice a week in the evenings. The workload required a ton of reading and weekly summary essays on top of midterms and finals. ⁣

This meant that after a long day teaching at my full-time job, I travelled across town, sat 3 hours to learn new content (most of it irrelevant to my daily classroom needs), and then spent my weekends reading and summarizing someone else’s words. Twice in the semester, I didn’t leave my house to cram all the information I could into my head so I could answer questions the next day.⁣

By the end of the semester, I was burnt out.⁣

I asked, “Do I need external validation for my learning?” “Is this pressure the only way I’ll be a better teacher for my students?”⁣

I dropped out of the program to regain control of my time and my well-being.


I didn’t drop out of learning.


I chose to be a student without the pressure of credits. ⁣

Today, I learn for fun, out of curiosity, and out of necessity.⁣

I have been a self-directed learner for years.


I hold the equivalent of a 27-year degree in education thanks to my firsthand experiences with students in the classroom and with my son at home.


When there is something more I need to know,

  • I read the most current research,
  • I contact specialists,
  • I have conversations with individuals with lived experiences,
  • I consult literature written by self-advocates, and
  • I participate in groups to listen, learn, and expand my knowledge further.


The quality of learning acquired through self-directed education far exceeds anything I’d acquire in a crowded auditorium. ⁣

My notebooks today are filled with relevant information I can apply the very moment I need it—not after I write an essay to receive an arbitrary grade by an arbitrary evaluator handing out arbitrary accolades and an arbitrary certificate telling me now I’m qualified.⁣

I am a student of life.


Life is too short to have someone else decide what I need to learn and how much time I need to learn it. ⁣

How many of the skills that you use daily are a product of being a self-directed learner, too?⁣


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