Friday thought #23 Never stop learning

The saying goes “Every day is a school day”, and I really think that’s true, or certainly should be true. Maybe my teaching background means that this rings much truer for me than for others, but I feel so strongly that no matter how old you get, you should never stop learning. It keeps your mind active, it helps you discover new things, and most importantly it keeps you interested in what goes on in the world around you. I’ve written before about doing something which fulfils you, and how many people I come across who would go so far as to say that they hate their job and they hate going to work.

I’m a primary school teacher, that’s my qualification and where the bulk of my working experience lies, so maybe I’m more keen to learn than others because I watch others learning every day, but I have come across more teachers than I can count who are 100% set in their ways, unable to learn new skills or techniques and worse than that, completely unwilling. And these aren’t just the ones that have been slogging away for 40 years in the same job, these are teachers from young to old, thinking they know best and without even the slightest inclination to change. This is despite the fact that everything is constantly evolving and improving, from teaching resources to methodology to technology. I really feel like the best teachers (and this could possibly be generalised to any profession…?) are the ones who are hungry to learn more, discover new techniques, find new ways of teaching the same old boring concept, and most importantly, want to try new things. If you stand still, teaching the same thing year in year out, with no variety and no excitement, you will drive yourself insane and more importantly, you will get bored. Boredom leads to grumpiness, a lack of enthusiasm and inevitably towards a permanent ‘can’t be bothered’ attitude and a lacklustre approach to life.

But I digress. My point here was that you should always be learning. Staying stagnant is boring and if you find going to work boring, pointless and mind-numbing, you’re in the wrong job. Like most primary school teachers, the thought of teaching secondary school children fills me with a slight dread, purely because I’m so used to the younger kids. But I think it’s good, even essential, sometimes to have a go at things that you might not find easy, so I recently enrolled in an advanced TEFL course, which when completed will more than likely mean I’ll be teaching English to all ages, from children to teenagers, to adults. Quite the leap from primary kids! Why? Not necessarily because I want to become an English teacher, I don’t need another teaching qualification. But perhaps to learn something new, take on a new challenge, add another string to my bow? I wasn’t sure how I’d get one with it, but I have to say I am absolutely loving it. I’ve taken on my first private student and although currently quite time consuming, I am thoroughly loving the challenge of having to plan lessons, search for resources and teach something new. It’s so far removed from what I’m used to, and bizarrely, that’s why I love it, because it’s new, and it’s tough.

Staying still is the easy option. It requires no thought, no change, no effort and no difficulty. People like to stay within their comfort zone, which I completely understand, but sometimes, just sometimes, it’s a good idea to step outside of that and do something which may have previously seemed terrifying. It’s amazing just how fulfilled and happy it can make you feel.

Well said Albert!
Well said Albert!

Friday Thought #1 How sure do you have to be before you up sticks and move abroad?

I’ve decided I’d like to write a pondering thought each week, something that will give us food for thought over the weekend so I think Friday seems the obvious choice! Here’s number one –  enjoy!

Of course moving house is a big deal. It’s time consuming, it’s incredibly stressful and it can be costly. Add to that the travel logistics involved if you’re moving a long distance to another town or city. Throw in to that mix a new country, a new language, a new currency and a completely new culture and you’ve created for yourself a situation that many would describe as their worst nightmare and simply shudder at the thought. Whatever your reason for relocating; whether it’s for a job, a partner or simply on a whim, the whole experience is riddled with unanswerable questions; what will the job be like? Will we like it there? Will we have any friends? Have we made the right decision? No-one can answer these questions for you and the only way of finding out is by going and giving it a try.

Filling in tax returns, registering with a doctor and opening a bank account seem commonplace and mundane, but in a different country and in a language that is not your mother tongue, it can be terrifying. Having lived in France now for almost my whole adult life, I feel fairly comfortable with the French way of life and how things work. But I can’t deny that day to day life would be so much easier if we lived in Britain. From buying standard household essentials to trying to use public transport after 7pm, life in a busy French ski resort is far from straightforward and despite the exotic image of the ‘French Culture’ I can fully understand why so many British expats still rely so much on the UK and the things that are familiar to them. So why do we do it to ourselves? I can only speak for myself at this point, but despite all the annoyances and irritations, the benefits of living here massively outweigh the downsides and our quality of life is superb. After a while you even start to find it almost endearing that the local bakeries close for lunch or that the waiting list at the opticians is over a year long!

So how hard is it to move somewhere new and unknown? The truth is it can very tough and the initial few months can raise a lot of questions as to whether it was the right decision. And how sure should you be to up sticks and move home hook line and sinker? My answer would be that there’s no such thing as no going back. If you go somewhere and give it your best shot and it doesn’t work out, you can always move on, try somewhere else, or return to where you came from. If circumstances allow it, you have to try. I will never forget a quote from Mark Twain that I read as a child and still remember to this day: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did do”.

The reason I’m thinking about this is that I won’t stay here forever. At some point a small ski town will inevitably run its course and it will be time to move on. Where to, who knows? But there are a huge number of things to consider and it may well involve starting completely afresh, even learning another new language. At first this thought filled me with dread, but the more I’ve thought about it the more it excites me. I think you have to put yourself out there sometimes. Throwing yourself in to new things, even if they are scary, is what keeps life interesting.

So it could be dreadful, it could be the best decision you’ve ever made or it could be somewhere in between, but to quote a strong cliché, if you don’t go you’ll never know. No-one can tell you what it will be like and no-one can make that decision for you. The only way to find out is to try. What’s the worst that can happen?

If you don't go you'll never know...
If you don’t go you’ll never know…