Events or experiences that give us insights into things that we didn’t realise or know about are often referred to as being eye-opening. We’re on a constant lookout for things that can further open our eyes to possibilities or new knowledge and sometimes we even displace ourselves for a period of time to create more opportunities for the eyes to be opened. Given that the last statement was not in the least bit self-referential, I’ve been thinking a little about what we do after the eyes are opened. What then?
My eyes have been doing a fair bit of opening over the months here – I’ve been exposed to new styles of teaching, completely different perspectives of education, new systems to work with and around, new friends and colleagues. I’ve also experienced the boundless energy of India along with its problems. I’ve seen poverty, hardship and suffering – and in most cases, was quite powerless to help. Yes, the eyes are opened but what of the person behind the eyes?
While it’s great to get the chance to have one’s eyes opened as one goes along, I’ve realised that just the opening is often not enough. I’ve seen things, I’ve experienced things. So what? Service-learning and experiential learning academics and practitioners tell us that after an experience, reflection will cause a person to internalise the experience and turn it into a learning point. That’s great but how many of us really take the time to sit down and reflect about our experiences to ensure that we can remember them and use them in the future.
Therein lies the problem: many travel the world in search of eye opening experiences, have their eyes opened and then return home exactly the same person. Nothing changed. I’d say that an eye-opening experience is only so if it effects a change in the person. It may be very subtle or almost imperceptible but change must be an integral part of the eye-opening process. If we’re not going to grow as a person as a result of such experiences then why go through all the trouble to get the experience in the first place?
I think of this because I’m heading home in just over a months time. Experiences have been great, no doubt, but have I changed positively as a result? Also, if I go home to pick up exactly where I left off in January, would all the little changes that I’ve made to my life in the past months come to naught? These have been weighing pretty heavily on my little mind as I look back at the work I’ve done and as I think about the work that I’m going to be going back to at home. Do I really want to continue to do the same things that I was doing before or do I want to make changes?
One thing I can say about me – getting out here and doing things has reminded me how important it is to do. We can talk about things till we’re blue in the face but improvements can only start when we start doing things. The act of getting things done reminds us of how much there is to be done and how we might never get everything that we hope to do done but we have to try anyway. I’m going to try to bring this back with me – no more waiting for things to happen and for plans to unfold. We have to get off our behinds and do things that we want to because things aren’t going to get done if we stay on our behinds. So there.