It’s September, Back to School

Dan Carusi Dan Carusi, Learning and Development

Thank God it’s September and back to school for millions of children across the country!  If your house is similar at all to my house, both mixed feelings between spouses for the first day of school. Some parents are absolutely jazzed with getting their kids out of the house, and others dread the endless activities and ongoing battle with completing homework.  My family had a great summer, but I was counting down to the first day of school when we could drag our son out of the basement away from X-Box and our daughter’s multi-hour sessions on Mindcraft would become contingent upon completing homework.

For kids, September is the time to re-energize their thirst for knowledge, stimulate their brain cells and continue their journey of life-long learning. This is not a speech, or fatherly words of wisdom, that will earn me a standing ovation from the children… Especially when delivered prior to the ‘zombie walk’ to the bus stop! Let’s be serious, both children and adults shut their brains down for the summer.  There is no learning taking place – nothing but sun, fun and relaxation.  We tell ourselves that once Labor Day arrives we will refocus our children’s minds on education as well as our own learning. You can’t argue against this, right?

So to help transition the family back to learning, we shared with each other our own experiences and memories from the dog days of summer. The highlights:

  • Camping in early summer during heavy tropical storm rain along the Shenandoah River
  • Walking the sunken road along the famous stone wall at the Fredericksburg Civil War Battlefield
  • Visiting London during the birth of the Royal baby
  • The horn on the western saddle was made so you can hold on for your life while horseback riding
  • You can actually successfully work from the beach without anyone knowing – please don’t tell my boss
  • Copperhead snakes can swim – good to know
  • A 13-year-old boy learning to shoot skeet with a shotgun
  • Canoeing down a swollen river and class III rapids
  • Grandpa sharing sand from the beaches of Normandy he brought back in a hotel shampoo bottle

Do you understand the point I’m trying to make?  Take a hard look at my family’s summer highlights again. They are all learning opportunities for people of all ages.  Learning is not turned on and off, it is continuous.  Many times it disguises itself and is happening without most of us recognizing that it is taking place – both personally and professionally every day of our lives.  The summer activities my family experienced represent a history lesson, learning by doing, new skills, competencies, and peer to peer learning – all without launching a formal learning program.

Now take another hard look but this time at your organization.  How are the employees learning today with the absence of a formal learning intervention?  Are they armed, empowered and equipped to own their personal and professional development?  Does your corporate culture support this type of learning environment?  Are you confident as a Learning Leader to embrace this type of approach to development?

So many difficult questions that all require an answer.  Employees are starving for development and it is our responsibility as Learning Leaders to help them see that continuous learning is happening around them every day.  Highlight and recognize the opportunities to drive excitement and engagement.  I didn’t see it until it hit me over the head during the exercise of making the list with my kids – talk about an “aha” moment!  Stop waiting for September and back to school to re-start the learning in your organization and help them to see the continuous learning is a daily part of life.  Perhaps it is time to start your own list and find your “aha” moment.