Article 18.09.22 Download © Copyright 2022
When we live to learn, then we come to learn how to live…
- The life and times of Queen Elizabeth II (1926 – 2022) provide a rare model and undisputable proof of the working dynamic between Living, Learning and Service such that it creates Wellbeing for all.
- It also demonstrates how Wellbeing is best achieved through a constant interplay between virtues, values, attitudes and mindset. Humility, Curiosity, Compassion, Commitment, have been amongst the words most frequently used to express Her Majesty’s constant relationship between inner values and outward conduct.
- It is an example of how irrespective of the fate that brings the cards we are dealt, and whether we welcome them or not, we have within us the capacity to constantly Learn, Serve, and Thrive.
- Over and above, how in the process, there is an infectious sense of Wellbeing that then ripples out to reach and also uplift others, such that there is the experience of a rich and meaningful human connection.
“There is never a day where I don’t seek to learn something new.” QUEEN ELIZABETH II
Curiosity is part of our natural nature. Spend any time with a healthy two-year-old and it will be time spent answering a seemingly inexhaustible flow of questions. So what causes this to dry up? It can’t be that we reach a point of knowing everything.
A student, a seeker, needs time and space in order to cultivate curiosity. Time to consider the ‘What if…?’, ‘Why does…?’, ‘How can…?’; to be encouraged to explore and to discover, and to refuse to accept the current status quo if something clearly isn’t working. As importantly, to dive into the depths to understand what does enable something to work rather than to accept it at face value.
Equally to become okay with the absence of a cut-and-dried answer, or obvious solution, to every problem – despite how exam papers might be set to often suggest otherwise. For both teacher and student always to embrace how it is important for the imperfect to be challenged, because this is often where we can learn most.
Of course there is always the need for balance: curiosity is best fuelled by a relevant knowledge and skills base. For example, one needs first to have sound knowledge of how a car engine works and to know some principles of physics. Otherwise it would be like handing a spanner to a monkey. However, opportunities for putting theory into practice, and a curiosity to find out what causes an engine to falter, also need to be there for learning to become complete.
The more we can be curious, the more the door also widens to our being able to understand ourselves, which surely must be one of the most important aims of learning.
The passing of Queen Elizabeth II brought a brief time to stop the routine flow of everyday life. It was more than just a time to pay one’s respects and to mourn. It also served as a time for inner reflection: where there was the time and space to consider for oneself the ‘takeaways’ to then implant in our own remaining years so that they can continue to give benefit.
A time of reflection is paramount within learning. Not just what has been learned in terms of knowledge, but what one has come to better understand about oneself in the process. For instance how much one enjoyed or disliked learning to fix the engine, or to come up with a new design element, gives huge clues regarding one’s qualities and abilities, and thereby areas of natural affinity in one’s life. You may not aim to be an engineer, but the process reveals how you prefer to think, go about things, work with others, and so on.
If curriculums are overloaded, or if the bulk of tutorials and seminars are led by the newer incumbent teachers who are anxious to prove what they know, then one can understand in a nanosecond how it will create a death knell to both curiosity and the practice of reflection.
The education process then degenerates to become a bit like travelling on a bullet train through the countryside in order to decide where to live.
“That’s for me to know and for you to find out.” ANONYMOUS TEACHER
Let us be clear that this form of remark has no place in teaching or learning.
It neither encourages curiosity nor an ongoing shared exploration by both students and educators, which is what makes for the best learning.
One of the most commonly voiced attributes of the late Queen Elizabeth II that everyone agrees upon was her humility.
Never at any time was there a sense of superiority suggested or given. Yes, at times when needed, a quiet recognition of authority, but never a sense of ‘I know more’ or that ‘I am more’ than you.
It is humility, based on the sense of equality, that enables us to remain always curious.
Humility is the basis of forming a meaningful connection with others. Where it is based on a sense of equality, we can more easily understand and be understood. So many mourned the passing of Her Majesty and felt emotionally upset, even though they had never met her in person. She created a feeling of ‘Being one of us’, who went through and endured many of the same things, whilst continuing to give strength and encouragement to others in the process. Be it through a world war or a pandemic.
This is the fundamental building block for both meaningful teaching and for learning. It is a shared process when done accurately. All bring different mindsets, experiences and knowledge, and all bring contributions that can be equally relevant, and which should be welcomed and encouraged in order to create optimal outcomes.
“Service is the rent we pay for the room that is our life on this Earth.” QUEEN ELIZABETH II
Should we be concerned that outwith the armed forces and the emergency (fire, police, ambulance, search & rescue) services, the word service has become somewhat outmoded?
Do we need to be reminded that Service is the highest form of human existence? It is ‘You before me.’ It is ‘We are in this together.’ It is ‘I can only be okay when you are also okay.’ The life lived by Her Majesty and the level of respect, gratitude and love it attracted, even by strangers, is proof of this.
Yet how much has genuine service become replaced by acts that are more self-serving and at the growing cost to Earth’s irreplaceable natural resources and atmosphere?
The original objective of work was to be of service: to provide something that would help others, whilst at the same time ensure one’s own life was sustainable. The latter point being important in order to help secure sustainability for all. It wasn’t about the accumulation of personal wealth for one’s own use. Before money currency, there was barter, or a prevailing Ubuntu-style philosophy. In the words of Khalil Gibran: ‘Work is love made visible.’
Where else, if not in our education system can we hope to stop this relentless and ultimately deadly juggernaut of ‘Me first’ which, in part, is perpetuated by the relentless conveyor belt of graduates who are not much encouraged to look beyond themselves?
How much within higher education –
our universities and business schools –
explicitly encourages and inspires
he spirit of service?
How much do educators encourage students to engage with the real problems of this world, how to understand them, and then to consider the contribution that can be done to help tackle them?
What is it that a degree will do that will further enable or enhance the capacity of the student for a life directed towards service? Or, to be more specific, to what level do all the assessments and tests that eventually lead to ‘PASS’ and to graduation, include through their content the assurance of learning that the importance of service is recognised and is aspired to?
We will know when it is happening and that we are at last getting it more right than wrong in higher education when we start to see a significant reversal in the growth trend of low mental wellbeing on campus.
The enduring good health and mental wellbeing that was always clearly visible with Queen Elizabeth II to the very last of her days, is our living PROOF that :
A life of Service is the outward, visible
sign of internal, elevated Values which,
when enacted, automatically create a
constant and infectious state of Wellbeing.
In other words: To be good and to know what it takes to always DO GOOD is the highest life achievement for us all.