One of my very favorite PBS documentaries was entitled: “Is School Enough?” and it ran in the fall of 2012. In this documentary, there was shown a number of exceptional student cases. One of these cases was Kate. Kate was a high achieving high school student, getting straight A’s. But she had a very strong passion in the area of Eastern-style meditation and healing. The problem was that she was spending so much time studying in this area that it was taking away from her schoolwork.
Her parents decided that perhaps she would do better in an on-line school — only to find out later, after she enrolled, that the on-line school required even more work than her previous brick-and-mortar school. So her parents finally decided to do what many would consider un-thinkable. They let her drop out of high school. This high-achieving, straight A student became a high school dropout.
But her education didn’t stop there. Kate found a mentor on-line and paid him to design a program for her. He told her what books to read, and what skills to develop. A couple of years later, Kate bought her own studio and is on track to pay off the mortgage in 10 years. In this regard, she may be more successful than many college graduates.
What exactly is mentoring? The best way to understand it is to compare it with the traditional educational model — students come in at a predetermined time, take their seats, and passively listen to an instructor. This traditional model comes to us from the Greeks, who believed that one highly knowledgeable person should stand in front of a group and tell that group what he or she thinks is most important for them to know.
But there is another lesser-known model, and it comes from the Hebrews. It is more like on-the-job training. It involves a one-on-one relationship with shared experiences. This model emphasizes that both the instructor and the learner are involved in what is being learned. Within this country, we associate this kind of learning with apprenticeships or trade-style learning. We often consider that only simple skills can be taught this way, but this is not the case. In fact, one-on-one learning can encompass any kind of content and may be the very best way to learn — as personal human tutoring and coaching have shown.
Our exceptional student Kate was unusual in that she knew exactly what she wanted to do at an early age. This is pretty rare. However, as we grow older and become more settled in our lives and careers, we increasingly do become aware of exactly what we need to learn to accomplish our personal goals.
So to keep up your learning throughout life, and to stay on top of today’s fast-changing technological society, be on the lookout for good mentors. Your relationship with the mentor may be as simple as that person pointing out materials or other resources that can benefit you. Or, the relationship may be more formal and structured with time spent together.
Simply trying to attend classes throughout your life will not meet your unique needs as an adult for learning. You will need to self-determine what is necessary for you to learn. Then, it’s a matter of finding a way to acquire that knowledge. Find a mentor. Find someone who can provide the personalized learning that you require. And conversely, be a mentor for others. Always be on the lookout for someone who can benefit from your skills. You’ll be happy you did it and be rewarded in the process.