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This week I saw a poster with the following title: “The World Is Our Classroom: I’ve learned that…”
This poster contains a long list of things that people learn and the ages at which they learn them. All the things are interesting. Some of the most thoughtful lessons are worth our special attention. There was no individual or organization listed on the poster to credit for this list, so we can give credit to some anonymous person or group for leaving us these ideas.
When most of us think of learning, we immediately think of classrooms, professional teachers, classmates, learning materials and a prescribed curriculum. Learning, however, comes from wherever we are and whatever we experience.
Think about how the following things listed on the poster affect our lives and how our learning is a progression of experiences.
“I’ve learned that most of the things I worry about never happen.” (age 64) Think of all the years we spend as chronic worriers. Someone once observed that worrying is like shoveling smoke. Do we really spend so much time is such useless activity?
“I’ve learned that it doesn’t cost anything to be nice.” (age 66) It takes us a little longer to learn this one than it does to learn not to worry. We finally understand the joy of being nice after all those years of finding fault and trying to put others down in order to raise ourselves up. Some people need longer than 66 years to master this concept.
“I’ve learned that if you want to cheer yourself up, you should try cheering up someone else.” (age 13) This is a significant milestone in a young person’s life.
“I’ve learned that if you laugh and drink soda at the same time, it will come out of your nose.” (age 7) Some of those physical lessons are learned the hard way. This one is right in there with learning not to touch a hot stove.
“I’ve learned that optimists live longer than pessimists. That’s why I’m an optimist.” (age 84) Enough said!
“I’ve learned that we grow only when we push ourselves beyond what we already know.” (age 53) We finally realize that we are lifelong learners.
“I’ve learned that everyone has something to teach.” (age 51) We all can leave our mark on children, youth and older citizens by teaching what we know.
“I’ve learned that there is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.” (age 48) This is one of the hardest lessons of all, the one that we refuse to believe when we are young.
“I’ve learned that if you smile at people, they almost always smile back.” (age 81)
We finally learn that smiles are contagious.
“I’ve learned that regardless of color or age, we all need about the same amount of love.” (age 37) Because we learn this one before we get too old, we have a lot of years left to practice giving love, the most powerful emotion of all.
“I’ve learned that if you spread the peas out on your plate, it looks like you ate more.” (age 6) We eventually unlearn this one.
“I’ve learned that you can’t hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk.” (age 7) Seven- year- olds are clearly wiser than 6-year-olds. My husband Fred tells the story of hiding his turnip greens inside the fuselage of a model airplane when he was about 8, a stunt that he learned later on does not work. Most children probably play food tricks from time to time until they learn better.
And finally, “I’ve learned that in every face-to-face encounter, regardless of how brief, we leave something behind.” (age 45) Those face-to-face encounters are so much more powerful and effective than remote ones, including those on social media.
So, people of all ages learn from experiences in the world; every day’s learning provides a new set of ideas that gives us the ability to get along and thrive in our world. Some people are open to learning more ideas than others, but we all learn from the world’s classroom.
The above list merely scratches the surface of what we learn. We can be thankful for experiences and interaction with other people to teach us what we need to know.
I do not know about you, but I know more about life skills today than I did yesterday.
Sanda Baucom Hight is retired from Wilson County Schools after serving as an English teacher and is currently a substitute in Wilson County. Her column focuses on charms and ideas for a fuller life. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.