Why Bother to Learn Something New?

Why Bother to Learn Something New?

One of the best perks about being a public school teacher is that I have to keep learning. In order to renew my teaching certificate every five years, I have to prove that I’ve taken at least six continuing education credits. This is not too hard to do. Every spring, I get offers via my school email account, for exceptionally wonderful classes that offer credits. And since there is such a wide variety to choose from, I can be very picky about what I sign up for.

Fun in the Woods

This year, I told myself that if there was a course that offered hands-on learning outside rather than inside, that was close to home, with all expenses paid, I would sign up. Lo and behold, such an opportunity presented itself. Now, for the next three days, I am in the woods so to speak, learning about sustainable forestry from foresters, loggers, mill owners, managers of nurseries as well as from national forest employees. Each of these men and women have one thing in common: they share a passion for the health of the millions of acres of woods they manage. 

Presently, I am immersed into a new culture of people and for me, this is the best way for me to learn. But, I am not alone. There are twenty or so other teachers who have also signed up to learn about sustainable forestry. 

While in the woods, we follow the leader. Yesterday, it was a university teacher whose classroom is the woods. He wore a hard hat, a vest with lots of pockets and tools that dangle down from loops on his pants. He pointed out the different species of trees and told us how old they were just by looking at them. I was jealous of his knowledge, but grateful he was so willing to talk about all he knew. He welcomed us to ask questions and never once said, “Now that was a dumb question!”

Learning something new always puts us in a vulnerable spot. We have to put on the mindset of a novice. Though I already know a few things about trees, I don’t know trees like these people, the experts. So, I acquiesce to the fact that I don’t know everything, and open myself up to learn a little something from those who do know.  

When I go back into my classroom this fall, I will take this new knowledge I’ve learned about trees and sustainable forestry and share it with my students. Though I’m sure they already know a little something about trees, they too will have to acquiesce themselves to opening up, to feeling vulnerable and a little awkward. But I will honestly be able to say, “I know how you feel.” 

Why bother to keep on learning? Some of us know some things some of the time, but none of us know everything all of the time. Knowing this about ourselves only opens us to learning something new.