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Over the past few weeks, global discussions have begun around systemic racism. At DreamWakers, we believe this ongoing dialogue is necessary so that we can continue to learn the unfiltered truth about our society. These conversations prompted us to explore the concept of being a lifelong learner— a form of education all about continued personal growth.

Below we highlight the perspectives on lifelong learning from two leaders in the DreamWakers community. #DreamEducator Katrina Bennett Brown, a school counselor at Sierra View Elementary School in North Highlands, California, has conducted more than ten flashchats over the past year! #DreamSpeaker Tracy Drain is a Flight Systems Engineer at NASA, where she gets to dive deeper into her fascination with space through a variety of tasks, including developing space mission tests and command products that are sent to spacecraft. Both share their insights on the power of making learning part of our everyday lives.

The Early Stages of Learning

When many of us think of our introduction to learning, we often go back to our classrooms. Classrooms act as powerful facilitators in formal learning. The concepts we learn in the classroom are carried with us for the rest of our lives. Ms. Drain finds learning Spanish as a second language from 2nd grade through high school to be an important skill that she still uses today. Interestingly enough, learning the language itself is not the only relevant skill she picked up. As she puts it…

A key takeaway: there are many ways we can express what we know. The only way to tap into that potential is to take the time to think about the impact of our words.

This sentiment also rings true for Ms. Bennett Brown. She also learned skills at a young age that are still relevant in adulthood:

Ms. Drain and Ms. Bennett Brown showcase “what” we learn in our formal education is important, but also “how” we learn those lessons is crucial.

Learning for Yourself

When our formal education ends, our learning must not. That is when it becomes important to find ways to make learning meaningful for ourselves — but how? One way to make learning impactful is to make it fun. Ms. Bennett Brown suggests that the key to making learning enjoyable is making it relevant. She highlights that “an educator has to be a learner first.” For her, this means learning more about her students’ interests and backgrounds to present relevant content to them.

Ms. Drain illuminates the power of making learning relevant in her TED Talk on natural curiosity.

In her talk, Ms. Drain showcases how natural curiosity has always been a driving factor in making learning enjoyable for her. In fact, her decision to become a NASA engineer was based on the infinite learning opportunities that studying space would bring. This was not always the case for her, however. While Ms. Drain’s childhood was filled with fascination at the idea of learning, by the time she finished college, her relationship with learning changed. “Learning felt like stuff I had to do in order to have the kind of career I wanted.” Fortunately, as she transitioned into her career, she rediscovered her interest in learning, showing that figuring out your interests and feeding your passions are key to nurturing a relationship with learning.

Lifelong Learning: A Forever Relationship

We each have our own unique relationship with learning. The only constant is that the relationship is forever evolving. When consuming new concepts, always remember to rely on strategies that work best for your learning. For example, what works for Ms. Drain is reading books from the library.

Ms. Bennett Brown’s favorite way to learn is by conversing directly with family. She highlights how learning about societal events through relatives allows her to hear firsthand accounts.

Ms. Bennett Brown’s insight reminds us that knowledge lives all around us. So many of our discussions in today’s social climate paint history as ancient information, but history is active.

Ms. Drain and Ms. Bennett Brown exemplify the diverse ways that learning shapes our lives. Learning is not just taking in the new information, but also reimagining the information we already have. We are all part of living history, and as our society changes, our relationship with learning should evolve, too.

Written by La’Treil Allen, DreamWakers Education Intern

Do you have any resources for learning that you want to share with the DreamWakers community? Join the conversation via Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook to share how you stay connected with yourself and the world around us. We would love to hear about your must-read books, favorite TED Talks, podcasts, or any resource you have to share!

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