Learning is for life

This Christmas I was lucky enough to join my son and daughter-in-law for a skiing holiday in Austria. Well the plan was for them it was skiing and for me time to ponder, relax, drink coffee and enjoy the wonderful views.
However, I did in fact forgo the coffee for some of the time and venture into the relative unknown. I tried cross country skiing. Many years ago I had, like so many young teachers, led ski trips but those were downhill. I had only once briefly dallied with cross country. But not to be outdone in learning new skills (as advocated in many an assembly) I hired boots and skis and had a go. I couldn’t have been more pleased nor rewarded.
It wasn’t easy. In learning this new skill I had to first master such elementary things it was almost like being back at primary school such as tying the boot laces, clipping on the skies and putting my hands the right way through the pole loops lest the latter fly away should one fall. Well this small achievement could well have been enough, after all I could stand there on the piste looking the part and feeling at one with the throng. However I did proceed onto the tracks. There I was reminded of the benefit of personal tuition: “it’s just like walking,” she said. Strangely I had to rack my brains to recall that simple skill. “Think and concentrate” I muttered repeatedly holding any number of bits of advice in my head: balance, relax, look up, look down, lean forward, bend your knees… So hard yet so wonderful when for a moment it goes right. Watching those ahead of me was important too: “watch and learn” such a good way to improve. Practice makes perfect or at least competent, I remembered, and so back and forth I went on the practice run. Never mind others were out on more interesting terrain.
Eventually I was ready to challenge myself further going uphill with skis V-shaped; then downhill in a snow plough. It’s hard but simple. I was learning and improving.
In those few days I learnt so much more than just a new skill, wonderful as that was. I was reminded of all the variety of techniques and personal commitment needed to do just that as well as the importance of help from others. “How to learn” – as teachers we must keep on learning if we are to retain our understanding of this complex and vital process and pass it on to our charges.
Learning is most certainly for life in so many ways. Glad I’ve been reminded in the best possible way. What next…

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