Lifelong Learner

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I have noticed a phenomenon about patterns over the past four years. I am not a behavioral psychologist, but I could not help but observe the following situation's occurrence in my life. A few times, whether at the grocery store, a coffee shop, or the library, I have thought, "Man, I see that guy in here all the time." Then, I realized that I, too, must frequent these places in order to see the other person there with such regularity. One such person is my friend, Grant Gilliam. We often cross paths in the library.

Recently, I spoke with Grant about writing term papers for the Christian Studies courses we are taking this semester. He just finished the paper for Teachings of Jesus, and I was writing a book review on The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis for Dr. Parke's class on wisdom literature. Both of us were anticipating our impending graduation and looking back at the previous few years. At some point in the conversation, we talked about how we wished that we had the same thirst for knowledge our freshman year as we do now.

Somewhere in my schooling, I came to the unfortunate conclusion that it must come to an end at some point, at least in a formal capacity. I guess it's true what they say, "You never know what you have until it is gone." I don't think that I have taken my educational opportunities for granted, I just wish that I developed a stronger passion for academia earlier. The progression I have observed is that primary school and high school teach one the fundamentals, core classes awaken one to a love for learning, and that the major classes give one a refined focus for the latter part of study in university.

I like to read. I learned to like to read in a core class. I took American literature under Dr. Potts in the English Department. After I bombed a pop quiz and confessed my disregard for reading the text that week, Dr. Potts taunted me, "That's not going to do you any good in a literature course, is it Andrew?" This jest resonated with me. I wanted to prove him wrong. I wanted to show him that I could care about his class, that I could read a story for myself and understand it. I think that is exactly what he wanted.

This semester, I am taking Dr. Potts for an elective course. I do not suppose myself to be some sort of literary wizard, but I do want to challenge myself to learn under the professor who kindled a fire for learning once more before I graduate. I was in his office discussing the term paper when he gave words to what had only been formless thought (for my part) up to that point. 

You’re coming to the point in your life where you’ll have to become a lifelong learner.
— Dr. Potts

I began to wonder what it meant to be a lifelong learner. I think that it means that one pursues knowledge even though there won't be a grade. It means that one is perpetually curious. Not only that, they take steps to satiate that curiosity. That only leads them to discover that there is more yet to be known, and that one can never know everything. Hopefully this leads to a healthy appreciation for God's omnipotence and compels one to develop themselves as much as he can. Again, I won't ever claim to have it all figured out, but here are some tips that you can take to becoming a lifelong learner in your core classes and then your upper levels.

Tips for Core Classes

  • Show up to class and do your homework. Woody Allen says that "80 Percent of success is showing up." If you make a concerted effort to be present and be prepared, you will find that learning comes more naturally.
  • Establish a foundation.  Learn how to learn. You can do this by zooming out. It's fairly myopic to only think about class as an item on a checklist. Think about core classes as the lower rungs on a ladder. If you want to reach the top, you have to start climbing from the bottom. The earlier you learn to appreciate learning, the better. 
  • Build good study habits to prepare for upper-levels. I've heard friends (often bright people) say that they didn't have to study in high school and struggled to adjust to the new-found realm of studying in college. Become studious. Even if you are familiar with the material, study now to make it a habit.

Tips for Upper Levels

  • Come to class prepared. Do the reading. Think about the material outside of the classroom. It feels good to know what is going on during class. On the days that I go to class eager to learn, I enjoy it more than days where I just fill up a seat and get counted for attendance.
  • Don't check out. You're not too cool for school. Ask questions in class to stay engaged in the conversation. It's easy to become distracted or disinterested, but fight the urge to disconnect and remain invested in your education.
  • Take ownership of the material. One of my favorite things about the communication department is that we are encouraged to choose our own topics. Don't pick an essay topic because it sounds easy. Choose something in which you are interested. I have found that I am more motivated to write about something more rigorous that I like than something simple but banal.

At the end of our quick exchange in the library, Grant concluded that he wished people didn't just go to college just so that they could get a job. Yes, it's important to do that, but the university experience is not only a means to an end. The product isn't a job, but a love for learning.

Keep learning new things.

Until next time,

Andrew, Senior Blogger, College Student, Lifelong Learner

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