My journey into education can be traced back to its heritage in the tropical Islands of Cuba and Papua New Guinea. The first was where my grandfathers sisters provided education for the poor workers in the town near their sugar mill. The second was where my parents spent over a decade in the mountains and jungles teaching people from indigenous tribes how to read, write, wear clothing, and navigate certain aspects of western culture. After a decade of living among this culture my parents returned to the frozen state of Minnesota where I was born a few years later.
Two of the earliest memories that I have are receiving my first Bible at age four, and a stack of 20 or so history books a few years later. I loved to read and would hide books under my pillow to pull out and read with a flashlight after the rest of my family had gone to sleep. Although I did well in school, I was much more inclined to indulge my natural curiosity through experimentation, building things, or taking everything apart. My family was overjoyed when I finally figured out how to put them back together!
My parents moved out to a farm when I was eleven giving me the chance to experience another aspect of learning in the context of life and growing things. During the long hours I spent clearing rocks from the open fields, I began to reflect and think and imagine and create ideas. I also began to ask questions of philosophy that have no satisfactory answers. About this time, I began to be frustrated by school. It got in the way of all my learning and confined me to a structure that didn’t always make sense to me.
This frustration skyrocketed when I found out that college would be no different. Instead of exploring and discovering ideas about the world, I was trying to complete homework and prepare for tests. I was so busy with school, I found it nearly impossible to visit the library to read a book or actually test out one of the concepts presented in class. To give myself a chance at completing the business degree I had started, I spent three semesters of my undergrad studying in other countries.
After my fifth university, I realized that not every education experience was designed in a way that I could learn from. Some, in fact, were designed in ways that made it more difficult for me to learn. Soon, I discovered that many other students had the same complaint that I did. Something was wrong with our degrees and we hadn’t even gotten them yet. Those of us who loved to learn accomplished more outside of class than inside. If anything, we sacrificed learning for the sake of a diploma.
For some reason it took me another two years of adventures in entrepreneurship and volunteer service to realize that my favorite part of business was teaching and empowering the people I worked with. I didn’t want to tell people what to do, I wanted to help them figure out answers for themselves. But to be effective at this, I needed to understand how they learned. I needed to master the art of education.