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?
- The Absurd Demands of Conventional Education
- School as Invitation Rather Than Requirement
- Flipping Education on Its Head