When asked to think back and consider the five moments or experiences that have been the keys to shaping who I am as a learner, I can’t help but focus on that word, “key”. The Merriam-Webster dictionary offers two different definitions for this word. The first, is that a key is a usually metal instrument by which a bolt of a lock is turned. Naturally, I think we can all accept this true and plain statement. The second definition however, suggests instead, that a key is a means of gaining entrance, possession, or control. I think that each and every one of us has had to seek out our own personal “keys” throughout our lives. Without them, we would be constantly stuck in relatively the same position, never moving forward. Each of the following have all served as “keys” along my journey as a learner.
From a very young age, both of my parents read countless books to my siblings and I. I remember getting books as gifts for just about every birthday and Christmas since I was little. This early cultivation of a love for reading and knowledge was the key to opening that first door to learning in my life. I firmly believe that this was one of the greatest contributing factors to my success both in school and as a lifelong learner.
The next two keys on my path as a learner came in the form of teachers. The first was my second grade teacher. This woman was hands down my favorite teacher. Every morning, she would be standing in the doorway of our classroom and greeted each of us with a massive hug and the warmest smile you have ever seen. This teacher made learning such an adventure and and extremely enjoyable experience on a daily basis. She established a confidence in each of her students and made us believe that we could succeed and were bound to do great things. It is absolutely my goal as a future teacher to show my students this same abundance of love and care that was given to me.
The other individual who served as a key by opening some doors for me was not actually a teacher I had in school but a teacher who served as a mentor, encourager, and life coach throughout my childhood and even now into my early adult years. This person always provided such a realistic outlook on life and shared with me the perspective of an experienced educator that I would not have had otherwise. Throughout my high school years, I was fortunate to be able to spend time observing in her classroom and she was one of the reasons I chose to pursue a career that would keep me learning forever.
Another moment along my course as a learner came when I discovered my personal key to perfecting my study habits. For the longest time when I was young, my older sister would always listen to music whenever she was reading or working on homework. So, of course, as the adoring younger sister, I did the same. But listing to the latest radio hits while I was trying to study or read only seemed to make things more difficult, and I really struggled to understand the material in front of me. Finally, as I reached high school, I began to realize that it wasn’t the music itself that was distracting me, but the words of the songs that my brain was trying to process while studying at the same time. I began listening to softer music that didn’t have any words and was purely instrumental. What I found was that my ability to study, read, or write improved tremendously. Now, instead of it being a distraction, music became the key to more efficient and effective learning.
Even though I have learned things about myself and made improvements, there have been a few times in college that I have had a class or one assignment in particular that was just a little more difficult than I would have liked. During these struggles, it has been hard to find the motivation or drive to complete the tasks, but what I’ve found is that I (and all of us) are far stronger and capable of much more that we believe.
These five moments and experiences are responsible for every failure and defeat, but they’re also the reason for the successes and triumphs. Without them, I would not have found the keys to unlock the doors that stood in front of me.
Don’t let a closed door stop you from learning. Go and find your key.