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Learning is generally a conscious act. We take classes, we read articles related to our work, we go to seminars or listen to webinars. Lifelong learning is a concept that we not only use in our lives to better ourselves, but it is built in to the support process for the people we provide services to.

One of the major things we do in our support is to teach and lead. Maybe you don’t think of yourself as a leader or a teacher. You might think that is the responsibility of the people above you, but you are wrong. All of us lead and teach, no matter what position we are in. It is often not a conscious act.

If we are yelling at another staff in a conversation, are we not sending a message (hence, leading or teaching) that it is OK to yell at someone else? But what happens if a person receiving supports starts yelling at their peer? Yes, you got it – we “reprimand” or correct them and give them a lecture on how that is not appropriate. I had to burst out in laughter one time when a direct support person said “Gayle is so darn bossy. She thinks she’s staff.” My reply was “And if she thinks she’s staff and is bossy, just who did she learn that from?” It took the DSP aback that the staff indeed were “teaching” Gayle to be bossy.

Learning doesn’t have to be boring and related to our work.

Not only do we need to provide lifelong learning to the persons we support, but we need to do this for ourselves as well. It keeps our brain active and engaged. Learning doesn’t have to be boring and related to our work. If you love to garden, learning more about ideal planting times, soil types, water requirements, light requirements, fertilizer and many other things will help make your endeavor more successful. Doing puzzles and yes, even video games, keep our brain active and helps maintain hand/eye coordination.

Lifelong learning is so important to all persons’ lives. It makes us all a better person, friend, teacher, leader, parent or spouse. I hope you all learn at least one new thing every day. It may be a very small thing, or it might be something that profoundly affects your life. The point is, always accept learning opportunities when offered. There are so many different ways to gain knowledge without ever opening up another school book.

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