This is teaching: You teach someone that every time a bell rings, they’re going to get a donut. So eventually when they hear the bell ring their mouth waters.
This is what teaching doesn’t address: In real life there’s not always a bell and there usually isn’t a person to bring you a donut after said bell has rung.
This is what I think learning is: You have an interest, you see something cool, you want to make something, you ask a question along the lines of, how can I achieve this? You start learning.
I don’t want this post to seem like I’m saying teachers are evil or stupid. On the contrary there are so many who are brilliant and want to genuinely help their students but don’t know how and there are even more who do know how and do see that the system is broken and they encourage their students to ask questions, to not feel bad about “wrong answers”, that they’re capable of making decisions and growing from mistakes and most importantly that they matter as humans.
The thing I never learned in school, is that life is learning. Sure, I had teachers who regurgitated the cliché phrases about always being a student, or was bashed over the head with signs encouraging me to “never stop learning”. But the problem, for me, was that it was always within the context of school. Realizing that I didn’t need a teacher or a textbook, is probably one of the most life changing experiences I’ve had.
Students follow teachers down hallways in single file lines and keep their mouths shut because that’s how the teacher wants them to walk in the hallway. Students sit upright in class and take down the notes that the teacher tells them is important because the teacher knows what will be on their next exam. But being a learner, you have accountability. You’re not following orders and as a result you’ll have less of a desire to break them. And you’ll quickly learn, that when you’re chasing or learning something that interests you you’ll write down the things you need to be reminded of. Or you’ll find another way of remembering stuff. Or you’ll learn what’s actually important to you.
Dozens of notebooks and binders filled with scribbles and handouts from high school and college, sat untouched for years in a closet. You know what happened when I needed something from them? I used the internet or a book, or I asked a human being. And if it was important and something that I continued to use in my life, I didn’t forget it.
This can seem like more of a tangent on learning, but I think it’s evident how this all impacts language learning. You can go to Italian class and become an excellent note taker, but when you’re out at a bar or a café talking to someone, you’re not going to go back and flip through your notes to see if that is indeed how and where to use the past tense subjunctive.
The point here is that being taught is a passive action and if you want to succeed at anything beyond passing an exam, and getting a sheet of paper that testifies to your ability to follow orders, hand in assignments on time and memorize facts that are easier found on the internet, you need to be active.
Go after what inspires you and don’t waste time on stuff you find boring, or something that someone told you they think you should do. Always question if it lines up with your goals and your passions. So long as you’re chasing what you want to do and asking questions you’ll find a way to do it. Cheers and good luck!