Unplug*ing to Learn

I am a voracious learner.  I can’t help myself.  I am interested in almost everything.

I remember complaining about this personal trait to one of my professors, Fred Helleiner, when I was an undergraduate student.  I could not focus on one area to major in.  I wanted to take everything.  He said to me, “And you see this as a problem?”.

It can be.  It can be a problem if all you ever do is learn, and never stop to do anything with the learning.

I was reminded of this while sitting at my nephew’s funeral last week.  One of the officers he worked with asked of us, “What will you learn from his life, and what will you create with it?”.  It can’t end with learning.

One of the things I most valued about the time I spent with Darren was his fresh approach to learning.  We were both teachers – me in the K-12 system, and he in a police college.  I “hang out” with K-12 teachers all the time, and our thinking can get stale as we “preach to the choir”.  Darren questioned my practices and shared his in a way that kept me looking at what I did from new perspectives.

It also taught me that sometimes we need to change it up, to stop our regular routines and be open to what can be learned where we may not expect it.  So after an exhausting month of watching Darren succumb to ALS, and working as the only non-OSSTF educational worker in my school, I knew it was time to pull the plug(s) and change the beat for a few days.

The last time I “Unplug*d” was in August at #Unplugd12, and the connections and learning will last a lifetime.  This time I unplugged to have time with family without distractions.  We are all so busy and spread out, that giving them my full attention was a no-brainer that I have been guilty of ignoring in the past.

Learning seed stitch together.
Learning seed stitch together.

And wow, did I learn a lot.  My daughter was deep into a knitting project for a friend’s baby.  We worked together to design a carriage blanket and then found a pattern online for a beautiful baby hat and scratch mitts.  We shopped and shopped for the perfect wool, then knitted together together to save each other the stress of ripping out stitches – and we did a lot of that anyway (FAIL – First Attempt in Learning!).

Sharing a love of reading.
Sharing a love of reading.

We shared our love of reading.  She reads far more than I do now, and she makes sure that the time I do have for pleasure reading is not wasted. She is my library (that [luckily] doesn’t charge late fees!) and personal literary critic.

Thunder Bay needs some snow!
Thunder Bay needs some snow!

And even though there is almost no snow in Thunder Bay, we found a ski hill where we could rekindle our love of snowboarding together (even over rocks and grass) and pay for it in pain and bruises the next day.

Generations of wisdom.
Generations of wisdom.

I watched carefully and learned much while my trapper daughter taught me the things she learned from her grandfather about harvesting from the forest, and our dogs got all the hunting and adventure they needed!

2012 12 27 dogs played out

It is so easy to get wrapped up in routine and obligations.  What a gift to be able to take time to step away completely, and rekindle old passions in the company of those closest to us.

Screen shot 2012-12-28 at 10.46.54 AM

Happy holidays and all the best in 2013.

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