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You Live To Learn

February 22, 2011

Alanis Morissette sings,

You live you learn
You love you learn
You cry you learn
You lose you learn
You bleed you learn
You scream you learn

You grieve you learn
You choke you learn
You laugh you learn
You choose you learn
You pray you learn
You ask you learn
You live you learn

And when you really, really want to learn, you’ll do any of these things. Or more.  Sometimes it’s finding what you want to learn that’s the hardest part.

Belonging. Significance. Fun.  Three essential elements for learning and growth articulated  by Abraham Maslow in his work to explain mental health and the human potential in the field of humanistic psychology.  I wrote about how these three words are seminal foundation for learning in Persistence, Mastery and Confidence and Take a Leap and Trait #3: Self-Reliance and Confidence.  Since those posts, I’ve come across a book that give more anecdotes and observations that support how adults can learn from kids what motivates them to do their best.

Education Week featured  Kathleen Cushman’s Fires in the Mind and hosted a book discussion, both of which caught my eye.  Cushman is a skilled writer whose voice and passion for the topic engages readers, but it’s the genuine and thoughtful words of the teens she interviews that makes this book so compelling.  These teens rise to the challenge of self-reflection and teach us (teachers and parents) what it takes to help kids find, pursue and gain mastery in their chosen fields.

As many teachers of young children know, it’s often easy to ignite the passion for learning early in a child’s life. Little folks are wired to ask questions and explore.  As children move into elementary years, skilled teachers and parents can sustain that excitement while teaching children the importance of balancing (and tackling) self-selected inquiry with the “other stuff” you have to do in life.  Ideally, we learn to take care of the “have tos” so we can get to the “want tos.”  Or, we find ways to make the “have tos” intriguing, interesting, and meaningful which blurs the line between “have to” and “want to.”  As children move into adolescence, their bodies and minds explode with changes that lead them to question their abilities, challenge the rules, push boundaries and often, fail to recognize (or at least doubt) their strengths.  Adults who understand both child development and what it takes to identify and support teens interest can help smooth this rocky road and develop life-long habits of work and passion.

Cushman’s book is worth picking up if you’re interested in supporting teens in what excites them – or if you need a few reminders yourself about tapping your talents and interests. Know a tween/teen who is tapping his or her talents? Post a comment to share their story!


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