I believe that education is about passion. For many years I memorized facts and formulas, took tests, and wrote papers — all for the sake of getting somewhere. But this somewhere was always somewhere else – acceptance into a well-known university, getting a good job, and freedom from the haunting fear of poverty. Throughout my secondary and undergraduate years I viewed education as a double-edge sword: a burdensome and often terrifying undertaking but also a means of validating my existence by doing well in school. What I didn’t know then but know now is that I was missing a very important component in education: a passion for learning.
A few months ago I read a paper by a professor of mine describing the lure of learning. He stated that learning new subjects and new material can often provoke frustration and lead to self-doubt. I believed that the frustration and self-doubt I always seemed to experience was a result of my many intellectual flaws. I didn’t realize that what I was experiencing was a part of the learning process, not an indication of my substandard intelligence.
Something else about that paper caught my attention: a phenomenon he identified as “the human conversation” – the interaction between teacher, student, content and a love for learning. In all my educational years, I never encountered nor read about this classroom environment.
Something inside me broke loose after reading this paper. I found myself excited to get to my classes. I immersed myself in my readings and assignments, obsessed with understanding every detail in order to fully participate in this dynamic human conversation.
An exuberance and passion for learning began to develop. My academic mind and spirit felt like they were aligning rather than being in constant tension with one another. I focused on understanding the use of words, phrases and ideas to deepen my appreciation for the planet in which I reside. I realized that I was becoming part of a universal human conversation and desperately wanted to know, really know more about my world.
I wonder now if such a transformation could have taken place if I was swamped with endless hours of homework and assigned mounds of material to memorize. I believe that students would have a greater interest, a lure, and passion for learning if they could dig deeply into a few subjects rather than be forced to learn a flood of facts about a whole bunch of subjects.
In my last few remaining days of graduate school, there is some sadness in leaving my university – a place where I have found access to rich human conversation. I feel like I have just begun to enjoy my academic life. Yet, I am confident that this new found passion for learning will extend beyond my university years and remain as an active part of who I am for my entire life.
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