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Lifelong Learning

One of the best parts of teaching is that my job requires that I keep studying and learning and growing. I've joked that I'd love to go back to grad school, if I could just take the classes and not do the papers and exams! It never occurred to me I would have the opportunity to be a teacher to a true lifelong learner. But I was given that chance late last year, and it is truly one of the most amazing teaching experiences I have ever had.

My student is a woman in her 80s. She is a naturalized citizen of the US, and so did not grow up in American schools. There are so many things that, in her words, she has always wanted to know more about. She apologizes that she has so many questions. And so, after meeting with her and her daughter once via Zoom, my student and I meet most weeks on Saturday mornings. We talk for an hour on the phone about all sorts of topics that loosely fall within the range of US government and history. Sometimes our discussions are chronological. Often, we follow topics as they naturally flow

As a teacher, this has challenged me to search for connections between topics in which my student is interested, and keeps me on my toes in terms of current events. She has also asked that we talk about historical events that I have never had a reason to explore in depth, like the role of women in the abolitionist movement. I love having a reason to dive into topics like that.

I'm the learner here, too. I am benefitting from that need to stretch my own knowledge. And we enjoy the times we find new facts and opinions around which to build discussion. She has great stories about coming to the U.S. in the 1960s, and living both in the deep south and the northern tier states. I am learning so much just having the chance to experience all of this with her. She thanks me each week, for spending the time with her. I thank her too. I am well aware that I am a beneficiary of this relationship. I hope that, if I make it to my mid-80s, I can keep learning in much the same way that she is.

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