Learning and Transforming

What does it take to learn something that seems difficult or to learn enough to be transformed?
Why bother trying to learn anything?
Who are the real transformers?

In Stand and Deliver, Jaime Escalante emphasized the importance of the desire to succeed so that a student could reach a high goal and have a life transformation. The movie focused on his years of real life work with students who had to overcome great adversity to make it into college. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have Dream,” speech has encouraged countless people to hold onto their dreams, to learn how to fulfill their dreams, and to transform their lives and others. Helen Keller, born healthy but stricken blind and deaf in an illness said a peson gains strength and character is transformed through overcoming suffering. Viktor Frankl, a psychologist who survived years in a Nazi concentration camp, wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning, people have the power of self-determination even when their freedom is limited. In other words, everyone has the ability to make a positive choice, even when their situation seems desperate. With a desire to succeed, goals to help keep a person focused on success, dreams of what can be, a person can learn, transform, and affect change in even the most difficult circumstances.

L iving
E nergizing
A ctive
R eflective
N nurturing
I nspiring
N ascent
G rowing

Learning keeps a person involved with life and helps people to appreciate different parts of living. Struggling to learn something new is like exercise-it might be tough but there are constant changes and improvements in the struggle. Active learning finds a person listening, repeating, remembering, connecting, practicing, and making progress. Reflection is taking time to think over what a person has learned and what that learning has changed within one’s life. Learning nurtures the mind, soul, and body, not always in that order. Inspiration comes to learners through connections made, through role models, through the process of moving forward. New growth causes a different person to emerge; now the nascent potential becomes more obvious-the person is growing in more ways than had been imagined.

If we find a life of peace where we never have to learn anything, never have to be active, never have to change and grow-we won’t be alive. Vibrant life includes constant changes, and vital to coping with change is learning. Embracing learning is a choice each person must make. The more difficult the task, the more we can learn even in ways we cannot foresee. People who welcome and pursue learning are people who find far more in life than they expected. They transform and help transform the world around them.

Maya Angelou, in “Commencement Address,” pointed out the transforming power of learning. Learning is not a degree. Maya Angelou said, “Look beyond your tasseled caps and you will see injustice…go out and transform your world, welcome to your graduation, Congratulations.”

Keep It Moving: How to Reinforce and Extend Learning

The public library in Waupaca, Wisconsin is going to have a Civil Discussion Series. The purpose is to ‘strengthen community through relationship and understanding.’ It will begin by teaching civil communication techniques. This will prepare the participants to use civil discourse as they discuss the “Hard Topics” that have polarized our country, such as immigration.

This program got me thinking about all of the different types of personality profiles that help people learn how to better communicate with others and to value their differences. DiSC, Meyers-Briggs, Kiersey Temperament Sorter, INSIGHT inventory, Neuro-linguistic Programming, True Colors, The Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument, and The Big Five are just a few of these personality tests.

Each test measures personality and behavioral styles, including communication preferences. People who take these tests leave with a better understanding of themselves and how they relate to others. They gain insight into their strengths and challenges, with recommendations regarding how to strengthen their interpersonal effectiveness.

Individuals or entire teams leave with their personality profiles in hand, ready to recognize, value and communicate more effectively with others who have different personalities and needs. All of this is to the good. But the glass is only half full. The obvious question is, “Now what do they do with this awareness?”

Of course they are expected to apply what they’ve learned in their daily work and social lives. However, wouldn’t it be great if that learning could be reinforced in a more structured fashion- in a peer learning group where different perspectives are valued and actively sought out? This would keep the learning moving through constructive and collaborative conversations over a topic of mutual interest.

Peer learning groups are also intended to ‘strengthen community through relationship and understanding.’ However, instead of the community at large, the focus is on the members’ workplace. The hard topics under discussion are the challenges and difficulties that managers face in the course of their daily work lives. The intent of the peer learning groups is to build on the managers’ strengths while giving them the opportunity to address their challenges in a practical and timely manner.

The dialogue within the peer learning group will let the participants flex their newly acquired knowledge of their communication styles. They can practice with impunity and without any repercussions because they are among their peers.

A peer learning group is a wonderful testing ground for new behaviors. In truth, the ultimate goal of a peer learning group is for the participants to practice and adopt new, more effective behaviors and responses. It is a good way to keep the civil discourse moving toward a specific goal rather than leaving it to chance.