Learning is NOT a Spectator Sport

For a special treat, I purchased tickets to the baseball Colt World Series Tournament for my family. We arrived early, found our seats near home base and watched the other spectators arrive, nearly filling the stands. The audience lugged in coolers, drinks and snacks. As their reserve dissipated, one or another would quickly search for the next vendor to continue their gorging frenzy. We enjoyed watching the audience as much as the players warming up! Learning is NOT a spectator sport

As the game began, we found ourselves tucked between the most avid fans. They knew everything about the sport and even possessed a historical and statistical history of the opposing teams and players. The first inning started noisily as the dedicated fans warmed up along with their team. As the inning numbers climbed, so did the enthusiasm of these fans. Insults were thrown out, mingled with advice and expertise from the stands.

My son leaned into me to state his observation, “If they know so much, why aren’t the playing or at least coaching?”

His observation caused me to ponder. How often had I sat in the stands of life, attempting to learn something via osmosis or give advice and directions without a thorough understanding?

My analogy continued as the game continued. Some fans frantically yet deftly hurdled the seats in the bleachers, racing between the aisles and rows to catch a foul ball. Great example of athleticism were demonstrated in these stands. Yet, they were only one step higher than the onlookers. Although they were more involved in the game, they still were not submerged in the activity. They operated parallel to the sport if not even parasitically. They remained on the sidelines, hoping the baseball would fall their direction. Have you ever been on the sidelines, not fully participating, hoping to catch a nugget of knowledge?

Individuals have been lulled into thinking that learning is something caught, tricking themselves to believe it is just like sitting in the stands of a game, requiring little to no effort. Society breeds this mentality through everyday encounters, deceiving us to be lazy receptacles of whatever is tossed our direction. An example is electronics, although sometimes used wisely, it generally lulls its audience into a malaise as people sit for hours entranced in games or television programs. Creators of television and games sell a falsehood that all problems in life can easily be solved within set time limits. These time limits being within the confines of a thirty to sixty minute television episode to levels within a video game.

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Compare this slothful, lazy approach of learning to the active learning who invests both time and energy into the learning process. This active, self-directed, autonomous learner seeks out opportunities to acquire new information. They ponder information and jot down notes, desperate to absorb every nugget of data.

One of the greatest examples of this type of learning is in the book, Carry On Mr. Bowditch. Nat Bowditch, although an indentured servant with few liberties, mastered languages, mathematical equations, astronomy, navigation and more. His process was through a simply equation of questions and answers. As questions came to his mind, he sought the answers, digging and investigating until he learned all that he could.

How would our lives be different if we were to participate in the same learning process? What can we do today to increase our desire to learn as well as spark this desire in those we mentor?

By Tracy Harrington-Atkinson

Tracy Harrington-Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education, a master’s in higher education and continued on to a PhD in curriculum design. She has published several titles, including Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Lemosa: The Annals of the Hidden, Book Two, Rachel’s 8 and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.

Tracy Harrington-Atkinson

Tracy Harrington-Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the mid-west with her husband. She loved storytelling and sharing her stories with her children. As they grew, she started writing her stories down for them. She is a teacher, having taught from elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education, masters in higher education and continued on to a PhD in curriculum design. Her husband, Kerry and Tracy breed miniature dachshunds and love to spend time with their growing family. She has published several books including Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Rachel's 8 and Securing Your Tent.

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