Yesterday evening I spent more than two hours with a group of young people from Romania’s first Alternative University. It’s the second year when I am hosting a 2.0 Course in this amazing community of curious and eager for knowledge people.
The theme? “Self-awareness”.
If you wonder what a course on self-awareness looks like, the answer is simple- it has little to do with what we learnt in our school years that a course “should” be – a set of information you need to memorise and then reproduce as good as possible. A 2.0 Course is a journey. There is no compulsory attendance. No grades. There is a series of informal meetings in which, starting from participants’ objectives, I suggest topics for debate. I offer them information which we discuss and analyse together. I recommend books. We talk about neuroscience, psychology, spirituality. We approach “self-discovery” from as many angles as possible, always aware that no perspective, as appealing as it may be, ever represents the absolute truth. From one meeting to another they take on new topics for thought and experimentation. They test the information they received. They challenge it. They prepare more and more questions for our next meeting. My purpose is to challenge them to think, to doubt, to test, to dig inside of themselves. If, in the end, they leave with some answers and even more questions than they had when we first met, then I believe it was a success.
Last night, leaning into my good old friend, the flip-chart, I experimented a moment of pure joy. The joy of offering all my energy and receiving theirs in exchange. Unlike many of my “corporate” workshops, where people come skeptical and wait for me to convince them that the experience will hold value for them, young people come to 2.0 Courses because they chose to be there. They are just starting their journey through life, they are convinced that anything is possible and they have very few inner barriers and very little to prove. I love them so much, with their intelligent eyes, fascinated by a subject that captivates them, with their deep questions and their authenticity which is, to me, like a breath of fresh air in a world where most people strive to seem someone they’re not.
In moments like these, having in front of me 10 young people who are completely open and willing to take on any challenge I might think to throw their way, I remember why I love my job as a trainer.
Flashes from childhood are coming back. I was in first grade, had just learnt how to read, and I convinced my mom to take me visit the kindergarden I had just graduated from a year earlier. I wanted to go there and read the children stories. And I did. I remember reading to kids younger than myself, who hadn’t yet received the “magical key” – reading – with which to be able to unlock the world of fairy tales all by themselves. They looked at me with big, captivated eyes. I knew every single one of them was living the rhythm and emotion of the story differently and I was so happy I could offer them this gift. Then I could not imagine anything else in the world I might do when I “grew up”.
Now I can’t imagine anything else either. I still love to read and tell stories and I consider myself the luckiest person in the world for having a profession that allows me to share stories that make people think.
I believe now, after 8 years in which I learned so much about what it means to be a facilitator for learning, that I still don’t know much about how you can teach others. I believe people learn in mysterious ways. I believe there is no model, no set of steps which, if followed, are sure to take you to your destination. We learn from experiences. We learn from other people’s stories. We learn from our own mistakes. We learn from emotions of all kinds. We learn every moment in which we are open to receive.
What I learnt in all this time of being both teacher and student is that learning never ends. I learnt that being confused is a good thing – it’s a sign you are about to understand something. I learnt there are no mistakes, just lessons. I learnt that nobody holds all the answers and that it’s good to stay away from people who believe they hold absolute truths. I learnt that doubting is a good thing and that the feeling I don’t know much should make me happy – it’s a sign I know a lot and also a sign I still have a lot to discover. I learnt I cannot force anybody to learn anything and that the only one I can change is myself. I also learnt that my energy is precious and that I want to give it to people who really want it and are willing to use it constructively.
Finally, I learnt to be humble when it comes to what I know and what I can offer – I am nothing else but a partner on others’ road to self-awareness and this is the greatest role I could ever wish for.