Sean arrived five minutes early, accompanied by knapsack, hoodie and a supercilious grin designed to hide the uncertainty of the situation. Fifteen years old and this fresh faced young man looked and felt the moment. It was his first venture into the commercial world.
As a two week mentor student, Sean had given up his holidays to learn more about the world of marketing and its allied disciplines. As he was familiarised with the organisation his subsiding apprehension was visibly obvious. A few well meaning jokes about speaking up and using the time to become part of the team for the next fortnight, offered a refreshing relaxation and after the first day Sean was mentally ready to embrace the process of learning.
It occurred to me at the time, that Sean was not unique. I mused over past observations with mentoring school students and how they had arrived with fear in their eyes and the usual camouflage of emotions. It was then I began to consider Gonski, and all the other so called experts who claim to know the answers about learning, and I asked myself, are we on the right track?
Consider this if you will; if our young people are so filled with a lack of confidence when arriving at the world of commerce and industry, what are we really teaching them?
Sean claims he learned more in his two week experience with our organisation than he had for the whole year and after a marvelous presentation to all our personnel in which he demonstrated a new confidence he never knew he had, he received a round of applause.
Interestingly enough the essence of what we facilitate is basic. It’s about solving problems – all sorts of challenges. In our case its a myriad of commercial communication challenges and they are often not simple. Yes, Sean was equipped with the three R’s and with a first class level of intelligence based on common sense but the very foundation of his learning agenda demanded his confidence and a belief in himself, after which he wanted to learn.
I believe the conditions for learning have to be individual and not founded on models which are right for the government, education department or the teacher. It has to be based on creating a belief in young minds that they are great and by being small they only pamper to their greatest fears. We are not small, we are significant and this is the attitude which must be purveyed throughout a learning process.
By creating such an environment, people ‘want’ to learn and in so doing we develop a culture based on searching for knowledge. We owe being great to the Sean’s of the world, we owe it to ourselves and we owe it to our nation.
We are the sum total of the books we read and the people we meet. We have the tools, now give us the moment!