Becoming a Learner Again

December 2, 2022

Part of being a lifelong learner is a willingness to journey from being the most experienced person in the room (often times a teacher or educator) to being a learner once again. This requires re-developing a “Beginner’s Mindset”, or embracing an openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when learning something new or taking on a new challenge. So many of our Mirabella at ASU residents do this with extraordinary resilience because of their innate curiosity and excitement about learning.

Re-learning how to learn also makes us better teachers. In the book Made to Stick, authors Chip & Dan Heath explain the Curse of Knowledge: “Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. Our knowledge has ‘cursed’ us. And it becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others, because we can’t readily re-create our listeners’ state of mind.” In this way, teaching and learning are inextricably blended experiences.

Mirabella at ASU resident, Ann Ludwig (86), knows this all too well. The retired ASU Professor of Dance and former owner of the Ann Ludwig Dance Theatre, Ann recently had the opportunity to collaborate with an ASU Master of Fine Arts student on an intergenerational duet dance project as part of the Emerging Artist series. However, instead of directing the production, this time Ann would be taking direction from the student and following her lead. As a former choreographer of 35 years, Ann reflected on her experience evolving from learner to educator and then learner again through this experience:

“Someone said, ‘I was brave to put myself into someone’s keeping.’ Actually, I think the brave person is the young and capable choreographer. Reading about or knowing people in the ‘later‘ generations is different than dancing in their shoes. So many things go awry as one’s time marches on making the actual performing something to contend with.  Listening and doing, instead of directing and choosing, becomes a tool to relearn. And now I have a new friend, one to follow as she takes to the trail in the world of dance.

These are the kinds of powerful experiences Mirabella at ASU residents can have on campus if they wish to venture into uncharted territory and engage with students, not only as mentors and teachers but also as learners and collaborators in a vibrant university environment that is rich with engagement opportunities.

(Photo Credit: Tim Trumble)