My most cherished learning experience occurred in my mid-twenties.  I had taken a break from work to raise a family and decided I would return to a formal learning environment and obtain some new technology qualifications before re-entering the work force.

I reflect often on what it was that made this particular period of learning so memorable. My teacher had only been teaching for two years, was in her late forties/early fifties and had no prior work experience.  She had raised her family and had been a stay-at-home mum until her children had grown and left home.  Amazingly, in that whole time she’d not used a computer, not even turned one on. She decided to return to study and learn how to use one; working through the qualification levels until she’d obtained her Diploma in Information Technology.  It was at this stage she was offered a job teaching, and two years later became my teacher.

Her experience as an adult learner made her a great teacher; she motivated and encouraged our whole class.  She had a light hearted approach, was cheerful, warm and put those around her at ease.  Her knowledge was fresh.  Through narrative and storytelling a wonderful community of learning was formed in that classroom. A gifted listener that conveyed genuine empathy, she could relate to our struggles… at times she learnt with us, sitting beside us and discovering how to complete the tasks at hand.  She became my mentor.

So what was it that made that particular period of learning so memorable? It was the way in which our learning was situated in social activity. It was the safety of the environment provided in which to experience growth without fear.  It was the trust and mutual respect extended as we celebrated each small achievement.  It was how beautifully we were shown what it is to learn.

There were eleven of us in that computer class, we all obtained our qualification, four of us went on to occupations that involved teaching or education (odd for an Information Technology class).

For some thirteen years now I have been teaching alongside this person whom I still see as my mentor rather than my colleague. 

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