Either teach, study or leave

"Learning is not attained by chance. It must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence." - Abigail Adams

St. Paul's School. Severe, forbidding for many, but certainly a class establishment. It was bound to be, founded as it was by the Dean of St. Paul's in London, one John Collet. Since 1509 it had a tradition of teaching children in the required languages (Latin, Hebrew, Greek), mathematics, the arts and public speaking. Samuel Pepys studied there for many years, and had he glanced out of any of the windows (as bored schoolchildren are wont to) he would see these words inscribed thereon.

It's an interesting concept - school is a place for learning, and either you are involved, or you are not. The choice for the boys of St. Paul's was simple. Either become involved in learning, or don't come at all. The same held for the staff - either you are involved in imparting information or you aren't. Sitting on the fence does nobody any good; do that and you're just a useless ornament, neither in the road, trying to get somewhere, nor raising crops in the field.

In the sixteenth century there was no compulsory education. There were no laws stipulating that schools had to be set up or maintained, no qualifications for teachers, no drilling of the times tables. You went to school if your family was wealthy, desperate enough to spend money to get you into the clergy, or you were a bright and promising individual who attracted sponsorship.

Nowadays many of us take our education for granted - from kindergarten through university, we assume that there will be people to teach us, learning resources readily available and librarians to guide us. And sometimes, we forget that we are there to grow, to gain knowledge, experience and understanding.

"Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere." - Chinese Proverb

I was lucky enough to have good teachers for most subjects, whose enthusiasm for their chosen subject was matched by their understanding, knowledge and ability to communicate, and other than maths, I learned much from staff at the eight schools I attended. I was fortunate enough to have parents who were interested in a wide range of subjects, and who had both surrounded me with books, and inculcated in me a desire to read. In short, I was blessed.

I was taught the academic knowledge and application at school, and the skills of life at home. When I left home, I could cook, and sew and iron clothes, hold conversations and I knew one end of a vacuum cleaner from another. As I left school and started work, I began another education - that of managing my life and collecting the skills required to hold a job, maintain relationships and continue to grow. I attended training courses through the bank I worked for, to train me in the necessary things to do with handling money and customers, processes and procedures, and work with my colleagues.

Then came a turning point in my life. The bank I had worked for had equipped me as a trainer/instructor, and this enabled me to obtain a position as a technical and customer service trainer for the Dixons Group. So now, I was training newcomers and equipping them with the skills, knowledge and understanding they needed to work in a tech support call centre. Oh boy. Did they need help. And oh, boy, so did I.

"It is always in season for old men to learn." - Aeschylus

As a mature human being, I know that I don't know everything. I'm quite modest in that regard. I have not read all the books there are, nor can I be up to date on every tiny thing in this great and complex and wonderful Universe. Equally, I know that no-one else can, either. There are many multi-skilled people out there, but not one of use, one of you, knows everything. On the contrary, we understand only the tiniest slice of life - that bit that we see through our blinkers, put there by our culture, media, family, teachers and peers.

In short, we have much to learn from one another, and if we stop learning, rein in either our curiosity or our senses, we will stop growing. So the teacher learns, and the student teaches.

There is no-one anywhere who cannot teach you something. Listen to your elders - they have hard-won experience and lessons to pass on. Work with your peers - they often have an understanding from seeing things a slightly different way. Observe the children - their wisdom and curiosity will astound you. If they are truly wise, they will do the same for you.

Learning hurts sometimes, we need to be modest enough to understand that we still have things to learn. The boss, the teacher, the pupil, the employee, even our shildren—all have things to learn from one another.

It seems to be the rule that the young reach a stage of rebellion. They sometimes try to run before they can walk. They tend to leave behind the things of their parents, reject the counsel of their teachers, and assume they know best. Hear their call, "I know what's best for me!" and tremble. But think now. Maybe they are right. Who is to say that they aren't? Because sometimes, we need also to rebel, against that rule which says that children should be seen and not heard, that we are always right because we are older. So we should listen to one another and learn. Always yearn to learn, and enjoy the process.

"Whatsoever one would understand what he hears must hasten to put into practice what he has heard." - Saint Gregory

Either teach, learn, or begone.

Hexter says re Aut doce, aut disce, aut discede: Reminds me of something we had at Winchester College. IIRC "Aut disce, aut discede, manet sors tertia caedi" (learn, leave or be beaten)


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