The Flow of Learning

A few weeks ago, I heard part of an interview by Shelagh Rogers of two aboriginal authors.  She asked a question about the significance of stories, and their answers were so powerful that I wanted to continue listening, but I had to get out of the car and run whatever pressing errands were dictating my day.  I intended to look up the two authors when I got home later, but life just got too busy, and I moved on.

But sometimes the world works in mysterious ways.

On Friday, I got to spend an amazing day in Nova Scotia with Kathleen and some of my best friends. At the Wolfville book store, Sonya (the four year-old flower girl at my wedding and now my close friend) suggested I buy a novel that she loved – Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

I devoured it. In fact, I got up early this morning to finish it because I felt that until I was done, I would not be able to get back to work.  I love that feeling, by the way, when you are lost in the flow of a great book.  In fact, one of the ways I judge the quality of a holiday is by the number of times that books capture me this way.  I felt so fortunate that I had today off, to take the time to keep reading, and even pour myself a second – and third! – cup of coffee while still in my pajamas.

But when I was done the novel, I still couldn’t get on with my day. I spent time searching for more information.  How did my education not include such significant parts of Canadian history – like the fact that aboriginal children were taken from their parents at gunpoint? And that the last of the residential schools didn’t close until 1996?  How is it possible, that as an English major, I didn’t read anything by an aboriginal Canadian?  I wanted to learn more, more about residential schools and survivors, more about Wagamese and his writing. When I finally snapped out of it and looked at the clock, it was after noon.  This experience is what Csikszentmihalyi calls flow.  But I still wanted more, so I decided that I would listen to an interview with Wagamese while making muffins.

And that’s when it happened.  I was standing in my kitchen smashing bananas when I realized that the Shelagh Rogers podcast was the same one I heard in the car a few weeks ago.  What a gift – I had been captured by a story, but was too busy to learn more.  But now I had the gift of time to pursue something of interest.

Time, given the fact that it was the Labour Day weekend, and technology, given the internet and the marvel of podcasts, enabled me to follow a passion and learn all I could.  The question is this – how can we give this gift to our students?  How can we help them find flow and pursue their passions?

Here’s the best part of my experience today – the podcast was taped in front of a live audience of students and parents at Royal St George’s College in Toronto.

It made me feel proud that this CAIS school is encouraging students to understand the complex and challenging parts of our history through gifted storytellers and journalists, and all the while getting students to learn along with their parents.

As we head into the start of a new year, may we all look for opportunities when our students can pursue their passions.  Meanwhile, we adults have to wait for more vacation time…

1 thought on “The Flow of Learning

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