If I had to pick one trait that differentiates a successful student from a non-successful student, it would be the student’s willingness to learn. Every now and then a student will come into the learning center and when I start to work with them, it is apparent that the student wants to tell me how to teach them. They seem unwilling to learn from what I have to share, in the manner I am sharing it. I even had one student that when I was trying to explain a mathematical concept, was brazen enough to say to me, “Can you just not talk so much and tell me how to do the problem!” I was not successful at convincing this young person that understanding math is more than just blindly following rote procedures to get an answer found in the back of the book. Not surprisingly, my tutoring efforts were not successful with that particular student.
I believe most people have an inherent desire to learn, but unfortunately, other factors can quench or weaken that desire to learn specific concepts. I include myself in that group of people. My own fear of failure and personal insecurities have often quenched or weakened my desire to learn specific concepts throughout my life. I have rationalized my unwillingness to learn with statements such as, “I just don’t have a talent for music” when I have attempted to learn a musical instrument, or “I would like to learn more about _______ (fill in the blank), but I just don’t have time.” I believe that the younger we are when we choose to stop learning a specific concept, the more difficult it is to change our mind about learning it, when we get older. What we may not realize at the time that we choose not to learn a specific concept, is how that choice will impact our lives in the future.
The good news is that we are never too old to learn something new if we have the willingness to learn. People that are willing to learn make time to learn. This often means prioritizing instruction over life’s other distractions. Another sign of a person’s willingness to learn is their willingness to ask questions. When a student asks a question in response to something I have presented, it shows they are attempting to process the information. So, if you have always wanted to learn something new, you can. Just make the time for instruction, and be curious and brave enough to ask questions.