09 November 2012

Lost Chances

It's fascinating teaching English to high school students.  First of all, pretty much none of them have any idea at all what the parts of speech are--nouns, adjectives, adverbs?  Forget it.  Secondly, they insist that they've never been exposed to the material at all, not in grade school, not in middle school, not ever.  The problem is that I know that this claim isn't true--this material is covered in earlier grades.  But from watching them in my classes, it becomes quite clear that they have very little focus and very little desire to learn, so the chances are very good that the material was covered in an earlier class, but that most of the students simply weren't paying attention when it was.

It gets me thinking about myself.  How many opportunities have I let slip by simply because I was too focused on something else to pay much attention?  How many things have I missed learning because something different was on my mind?  Even if the numbers are relatively low, they're still too high for comfort.  I know that learning is a gift, and it's up to us to try to avoid squandering that gift to the best of our ability.  We all have chances to learn all through life, but sometimes we're like my students who are far too interested in who might be texting them right now to stay focused on a lesson on adverbs.  And because of that lack of focus, they and we miss out on some wonderful things that we could know about us and our lives.

Sometimes we reach certain situations sure that we've never been prepared for them.  While this sometimes may be true, it may also be true that we have had lessons in life that could have prepared us for a current situation, but that we chose to do something else and never even noticed that a potentially valuable learning experience has been in our lives.

In my past, I've been a person who has ignored or who has simply been unaware of learning situations.  Now that I'm older and (hopefully) wiser, though, my hope is that I'm aware of learning opportunities when they come my way, and I hope that I'm not like my students--that I won't complain that something is too hard or that I've never been exposed to certain information before.  After all, learning involves taking leave of our comfort areas and moving into unknown territories, and I sincerely hope that learning always is a part of my life.

Learning is not attained by chance.  It must be sought for
with ardor and attended to with diligence.

Abigail Adams

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