Learning is a process. An infant doesn’t come out of the womb automatically knowing how to walk, talk, and read. Instead, the infant learns one skill at a time before building upon these previously learned abilities. Without these seemingly simple skills an infant learns, a person would be unable to learn in different stages of life. The first key experience in my life, and any learner’s life, begins at the infant stage.
After learning basic skills, I feel that the next monumental moment in my life as a learner started around the age of 3, when I found a love for literature. Clearly, I wasn’t fluently reading books at this age, but I loved being read to and delving into the endless possibilities that stories brought. By the age of 5, I found solace in reading books, and still do to this day. I strongly believe that my love of reading from a young age allowed me to become the learner that I am today. Books provided me with vocabulary, creativity, and hope, among other things. As I reached higher levels of education, my love for reading helped me with everything from navigating mundane textbooks, to writing my own stories. Literature has without a doubt molded me into the learner I am today.
As a sixth grade student, I was faced with a daunting task: memorizing all 44 presidents, IN ORDER. When our social studies teacher told us on the first day of school that we would be able to recite all the presidents by Thanksgiving, I knew she was crazy. Nonetheless, staring me straight in the face the very next morning was a piece of paper with a picture of a washing machine overflowing with clothes on the lawn of the White House. My teacher held the paper up and said “Wash a ton: Washington.” Day after day, there was a sheet of paper with a clue for each of the presidents similar to this. Each day, we would learn our new president and then repeat the ones we previously learned of. Sure enough, by Thanksgiving, our entire class of sixth grade students was able to recite all 44 presidents, in order. This experience, that at the time seemed impossible, was made simple with practice and repetition. At this moment, the way I learned changed forever. From that point on, I came up with silly clues to remember information and used repetition to help with recall. Believe it or not, the following year, she made us learn how to recite the abridged version of the Constitution…like I said, she’s crazy.
Up until my senior year of high school, I considered myself to be a decent writer. I understood how sentences worked, was fairly good at spelling, and felt my stories were worth reading. During my senior year, I took a college level English class. It was shortly after the first day of class that I realized how much I had yet to learn about writing. My teacher during my senior year, Mrs. Sweet, was incredible. Throughout the course of the year, she taught me more than I had learned in all of my other English classes combined. She taught me about verb tense, conjugations, superlatives, and parallel structure, to name a few. In addition, she made us outline each and every one of our papers before writing to ensure we had a hook, thesis, preview, transition, etc. within each paper. When I graduated high school, Mrs. Sweet bestowed me the best piece of knowledge yet. She gave me “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” by Dr. Seuss. Within the book, Mrs. Sweet wrote me a note about how no matter what I do in life, and no matter where I end up, I can do whatever I set my mind to. It’s all about believing in who I am as a person and persevering until I am successful. Overall, the information that Mrs. Sweet taught me about reading, writing, and even life, will be carried with me wherever I go.
The final defining moment that made me the learner that I am today, is not actually a moment, but people—my parents to be exact. It may sound cliché, but I wouldn’t be the learner, or person, that I am today without my parents. My parents are the ones who have literally always been there to help me learn. They were there for the first steps, first successes, and first failures. From handing me my first children’s book, to buying me my first novel, my love of reading was formed from watching my parents consistently having books in their hands and listening to them read to me. Through it all, my parents encouraged me when I struggled, picked me up when I fell, and congratulated me when I succeeded. As teachers, my parents are the ones who instilled a love of learning and teaching into me at a young age. Without them, there’s a chance I wouldn’t even be pursuing a teaching degree today. Remember that teacher that I talked about earlier? The one who forced my classmates and me to memorize the presidents and Constitution? Yeah, that was my mom…and I couldn’t thank her more for it. Aside from learning about school, my parents also helped me to learn about love, finances, responsibility, and virtually everything else that I know to this day.