Thursday, 22 June 2017

Alusine Barrie - my journey so far as a lifelong learner

My journey so far as a lifelong learner

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Alusine Barrie
“We are all born lifelong learners, it all depends on how it’s developed and how some of us take advantage of it in our lives.” – Clara Sancho

It is only recently that I realized through my quest as an educator that I have sufficiently developed myself as a lifelong learner. I see this as synonymous to the concept of growth mindset. I saw a likely source of this being my step father who lived with us and would always bring children’s story books and would read with us in bed until we fell asleep. He was always ready to answer my numerous (and often bizarre) questions. In him and my mother (who was uneducated but had great tolerance for questions) I found a safe place to develop my budding curiosity.

I transferred to Freetown in 2009 and was given ample access to numerous school resources (especially the internet) and an environment where I felt safe to learn many different things. I was very excited being an arts student as I loved literature, history and politics but I was also very much interested in many other subjects. Often, I would find myself in the library poring over all sorts of books - especially science. I could choose the subjects and topics I wanted to concentrate on. I would find myself in the computer room asking questions on internet explorer. It was quite addictive and I even started teaching myself French and other online diploma courses while in senior school. I graduated as an arts student and then studied maths in a higher teachers’ training course.

Reflecting back on my life for this blog’s theme made me agree with Clara (also a lifelong learner and a great friend) who told me ‘I believe we are all born lifelong learners, it all depends on how it’s developed and how some of us take advantage of it in our lives’. Traits like creativity, intelligence, curiosity etc. are innate, we often unlearn them as we grow older through society’s rules and dogmas. We have both been lucky to be born to parents who fostered our childhood curiosities and found schools that helped to develop this wonderful attitude.

Developing myself as a lifelong learner has given great value to my life both personally and professionally – especially in my work as a teacher trainer in EducAid. One develops a much wider perspective over issues and it becomes easier to take multiple perspectives into consideration simultaneously. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly for me, is the cascading nature of lifelong learning. For instance, I easily dared to learn Spanish and found it much easier to master the linguistic structures because I had spent time before learning the structures of French – which are similar in many ways. I am confident to want to study economics and computer programming (which both require a healthy dose of mathematical reasoning) because I have developed the prerequisite skills before.

One important characteristic shown by most lifelong learners is that they would have a big goal but take multiple paths to achieving that goal, and don’t mind taking another path if their current circumstances make it difficult to achieve initially. A colleague A.A Kamara, has always modelled himself as a lifelong learner and had this to say: it makes my point well: “I wanted to become a lawyer but looking at my age and the amount of money involved, I realized that it will be very difficult for me to achieve my goal of serving my fellow Sierra Leoneans in this way. So now, I am building my efforts in educational institutions where I can use the skills I have gathered as a teacher to help others.” As we see, for lifelong learners failure in one path is just an opportunity to continue into another path.

In conclusion: ‘we are all born lifelong learners’ and that it is never too late to awaken that innate blessing. Never stifle a child’s curiosity. Encourage children to ask questions. Give them many opportunities to learn and help them find answers to their most bizarre curiosities. That way, they may grow to become strong lifelong learners.

Lifelong learning is a journey; this is mine so far….