Do Grown-Ups Learn?

!afterclass! Emotion
Janss Mall, Interactive Fountain
Thousand Oaks, CA ((Lehrer, Nancy. “Children at Play.” Flickr. 11 May 2008. Web. 23 Jan 2010. <>.))

Unable to find a table at Starbucks Thursday morning, I took a chair offered by a woman who looked like she was finishing up her pastry and would soon be leaving her table — to me. She was a regular and knew why I was there.

We started talking and she told me about the numerous and wildly varied jobs she had held since graduating from UNC with a degree in “Peace, War, & Defense.” I finally asked her, “So what do you want to be when you grow up?” I hope I asked it in the playful way that I’d intended — because she seemed a bit taken-aback by the question.

The thing is, it seems that when posing that mostly fun-poking question to adults, what you are really asking is, “What is the last thing you want to learn to do?”

Thinking about it this morning and visualizing my archetypal learning-resistant educator, what I see is a grown-up, someone who is doing the last thing they want to learn to do. Of course we’re all always learning and we all plan to develop new interests, skills, hobbies, etc, as we go along. No one ever intends to stop learning, and being “grown-up” is certainly not an exception.

I just wonder, though, if resisting change and the learning required to adapt to change is a characteristic of feeling “Grown-Up?”

We don’t stop playing games because we’re getting older – We get old because we stop playing games. (author unknown)

I saw that quote on a slide at a conference I attended last year, and it rings true to me. But it doesn’t say to me that we should resist growing up.  It’s says that we should never stop playing and being playful.

I wonder, if I should add an “eleven” to my 10 Ways to Promote Learning Lifestyle in Your School, “Find ways to be playful at your school — and perhaps feel less grown-up.”

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.