Launch Global Education
Sparks blog: Becoming a Student for Life

by Dr. Ann Wagner

Students often say I can’t wait until I am done with school!  And I understand it. Too often, school is filled with work you must do, whether you want to or not. To be honest, it is important preparation for adulthood in that way. The good news is that while learning can sometimes feel (and be) mandatory, lifelong learning is different.

Lifelong learning

Simply put, lifelong learning is directed by you, and it can happen at any time in your life.  In fact, it should happen throughout your life. The truth is, we are learning all the time. Whether you are surfing the internet or listening to local news, you are taking in information about the people, places, and things around you. We learn from our interactions too—with people, with our environment, with animals, and with our own thoughts and ideas. Lifelong learning is a mindset though.  One in which you actively seek to expand your knowledge.

The world changes

Things are going to change enormously in your lifetime. I grew up without the internet, yet I cannot even imagine my world without it now.  What you learn during your formal secondary and undergraduate education will already be dated in five years, let alone, ten, twenty, or thirty. Embracing lifelong learning means you will always be willing to welcome change.

smiley face with arrow on pavement

You change

Most people change careers several times in their lives.  I have.  And most of the people I know have. As you embrace new phases in your life you will need to learn new things.  Take becoming a parent as an example.  Caring for a newborn requires a great deal of knowledge, and at each stage of a child’s development, you will need to learn new things about being a caring, knowledgeable, and protective parent.

Your interests will change too.  You might start to love gardening, traveling, writing poetry, or collecting pottery.  No matter what your interest is, there will be new things to learn.

assorted pottery

You stay current

No one likes to be left behind.  However, that is exactly what will happen if you stubbornly refuse to adapt to the latest technology or embrace a new procedure.  Your work skills will become less valuable and others will take your place. It is not just about learning what you need to know, it is about being open-minded to learning and growing throughout your life.

sign with future and past in different directions

Learning is even more rewarding when you are in charge

While there will still be plenty of times that you will be required to study something, more and more you will be able to make your own decisions about what you learn, when you learn it, how you learn it, and how you apply the learning.  And here’s the bonus: no matter what you are studying, it is stimulating your brain and forging new connections within it. What you discover about the growth of an orchid might spark a new idea in your engineering job.  Or traveling abroad might better help you appreciate your client's dissatisfaction with your company’s customer service. Your new knowledge will have value in unexpected ways.

So, next time you find yourself thinking, I can’t wait until I am done with school, change your message.  Open your mind to lifelong learning.  Practice it every day.

Dr. Ann Wagner

Ann Wagner, EdD is a founder and the Vision Engineer for Launch Education.  Dr. Wagner has led international schools around the world and currently teaches at the university level, working with educators earning their master's degrees.