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Senior Correspondent

“Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better.” Samuel Beckett

A colleague recently shared with me how much she appreciates the grade school her son attends. She values the quality, dedication and creativity of the teachers and school administration, among other things. Intrigued by her comments, I asked for an example.

She described a parent-teacher conference she attended with her eighth grade son. He set the agenda, preparing a set of topics for discussion, and conducted the meeting. In addition to evaluating his performance, he set learning goals and checked his progress against those goals. 

Stepping away from the traditional approach, this enlightened teacher gave the student more responsibility, demonstrated her belief in him, and made him more accountable for his own learning. Directing the student to self-manage at such an early age should give him a real edge as a young adult. I speculated that he would also learn how to learn under this model, rather than just learn how to pass a test.

The days when we quit learning because we have graduated from high school, college or tech school are long gone. We are all lifelong students. There are so many things we have to learn just to function in today's high tech world. We must learn everything from checking ourselves out at the grocery store, to reconciling our bank statements online, to downloading books, to recording our favorite shows to watch later. And, we all know that's the short list.

I have started keeping a list not only of the things I need to do, but the things I need to learn. This list often requires that I also identify the best way to learn each item. Sometimes I need a coach, teacher, or specialist to  help me learn particular skills or skill sets. At other times, I can teach myself.

It helps if I can maintain a healthy attitude about learning. Rather than tell myself that I am dumb because I don't know how to do something, I just get on with my plan and find a way to enjoy learning yet another skill. It helps to keep in mind what learning something will help me do or be.

Today's revved up workplace demands that employees are engaged in continuous learning. The workplace curriculum is not as well defined as school curriculum. Workplace curriculum can be of a technical nature, or it can be focused on what is commonly referred to as soft skills. Soft skills are of a diverse range of skill sets needed to collaborate with and lead and inspire others, as well as manage processes and tasks. For many, the soft skills are harder to master than the technical ones.

One thing is certain: it helps to fall in love with learning all over again. We need to be good students and good teachers so that others can learn what we know. In the workplace, we refer to this as the learning organization. This is an organization designed to help employees learn and grow more competent and confident to perform their jobs.

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