Friday, September 19, 2014

The Learning Never Stops

“Lifelong learning” is a phrase you’ll hear educators say over and over again.  If you’ve been in school since the time you were five or six years old and have yet to live and work as a non-student, then the meaning of “lifelong learning” might be lost on you.  “Of course I’ve been a lifelong learner,” you say to yourself.  “I’ve been in school forever, and my job has been to learn.”

I too have spent most of my life in school, but this year I finally left academia to work as a private tutor.  I’m a freelancer now, which comes with a tremendous amount of freedom and no small amount of fear.  The most exciting thing about all this freedom is the near-constant opportunity to learn new things.  I thought I’d share some of those things with you, both as an illustration of lifelong learning as well as to document for myself how far I’ve come.

* My partner Tutor Paul developed our on-line tutoring platform earlier this year.  Paul is an engineer, which means that developing and utilizing technology is his bread and butter.  I am a biologist who does not have a natural affinity for new technology.  I’ve had to learn how to use the platform and get comfortable with the equipment set-up for on-line tutoring.  At this point, I think I’m mostly over the learning curve and have a much better handle on how to use the equipment.

* I have taught myself the course content for Texas A&M University’s Genetics 301 class.  Fun fact: I never took genetics as an undergrad.  Really, I wasn’t even interested in genetics until graduate school, when I learned how powerful it is.  So I arrived at genetics a bit older than my students, but I love teaching it.  My hope is to be one of the best genetics tutors in Austin.  It’s my favorite tutoring subject and it dovetails so nicely with molecular biology.

* I have been relearning general chemistry.  Gen chem is different now than it was when I took it.  That might be a function of my undergrad chemistry department; my professor friend tells me that their goal is to get students into organic chemistry after one semester of gen chem.  My reintroduction to general chemistry has given me new insights into the universe, new chances to experience wonder.  For example, now I better understand emission spectra and the idea of the electron as both a wave and a particle (just like light!).

* Finally, the most important thing I’ve had to learn is how to be in business for myself.  I’ve been really fortunate to have mentors who believed I could do it, who offered their insights and advice, who didn’t think I was crazy for wanting to be self-employed.  Without Paul and Jeremy, I don’t think I would have been brave enough to make the leap to full-time tutoring.  

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What have you learned lately?

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