I was noticing a pattern every time I discussed my goals. In each role I took on, I spoke about leaving an impact by educating others and spreading knowledge. My thought process for organizing events always included the question of, “What are we teaching our attendees and what are the takeaways?” On occasion I’d hear the usual, “It doesn’t always have to be educational.” and to some extent I agreed, but for the most part, learning meant and continues to mean so much to me. There is value in challenging others to step out of their comfort zone and into the learning zone. If the opportunity to do so is present, we must take it!
This sentiment remained true during my time as a fellow. However, it presented itself in new ways. As an alumnus, Class of 2014, of Fiver Children’s Foundation, I knew a ton about Fiver culture when taking on my role as the Character Education Specialist.
Each year at Fiver, participants are awarded a dog tag that represents one of the Fiver's 12 Character Attributes they have most demonstrated. The attributes are: Compassionate, Respectful, Courageous, Team Player, Trustworthy, Creative, Learner, Environmentalist, Peacemaker, Community Builder, Responsible, Self-Confident.
Throughout my time as a camper I was able to gain 10 of the 12 dog tags, one repeat, and as a staff member I earned my 11th. For participants, one dog tag always stood out and not for the reasons you would expect. It’s the dog tag that I had never earned - the Learner dog tag. That’s right, for someone who always wants to teach others, I myself hadn’t earned the Learner dog tag.
For years, participants like myself felt the Learner dog tag meant you didn’t listen to your counselors. It was the dog tag you earned if you didn’t follow the rules or didn’t do your chores in the morning unless your counselor and peers begged because they wanted to win clean sweep. There was a lot of “No” present when participants talked about the learner dog tag, but now I know a lot of “Yes” should be present if you want to be a learner. In fact, it may be one of the most important attributes when we think of success and growth.
A learner is someone who learns from their mistakes, someone who observes, listens and absorbs information and uses it to change the world. When you open your mind to new experiences, growth, wisdom and freedom come with it.
Knowing what I knew, I had to change this perspective on the Learner dog tag. It became one of my most important goals this summer, and I challenged myself and staff to teach our participants the true story and meaning of a Learner. This became a reality when a participant shared their concern about earning the Learner dog tag. The participant said being a learner means you’re “bad” and “don’t listen.” And because I hadn’t earned it they said, “See, it’s because you’re smart.” They questioned their own strength and courage. I use those terms because that’s what it takes to be a learner. A learner is someone who learns from their mistakes, someone who observes, listens and absorbs information and uses it to change the world. When you open your mind to new experiences, growth, wisdom and freedom come with it. I shared this with the participant, as well as my own yearning to be a Learner, just like them. Before I knew it, they started crying. They were proud, and overjoyed because being a Learner is special, and they ARE special. They needed to know that Learners aren’t dull or foolish. In fact, they are the opposite. We should ALL aim to be learners because there’s always something new to discover. From that point on, Learner was always our most intense discussion during wholeself class. Staff were on board, we were all on the same wavelength and any discussion about being a Learner was a powerful one. Here’s to all of our Learners and the pride that comes with being inquisitive, intuitive and SPECIAL.