You begin your Parenting journey often contemplating all the things you could teach your mischievous little munchkin. But how prepared are you to actually learn?
At first, you are unaware. You see this tiny human in diapers trying relentlessly to communicate with you by all means possible (ok, mainly through crying!) and you think: “Oh, little person, you have so much to learn about life and stuff”. Before you know it, the cards have flipped and it’s the other way around: you find yourself embarking in what could turn out to be the longest and most satisfying learning trip of your life!
Who would have known, Momma: this tiny human who can’t even verbally express himself has equal (if not more) potential to teach you stuff as any experiential workshop, seminar or degree out there. In the beginning you may be inclined to think you hold the Teacher role in this new Learning Relationship. But it’s just a facade. In reality, you are in this together: your roles interchange, and that’s how you both get to Grow!
Take Katerina, for instance. A friend’s daughter, aged five. Today was her first day at kindergarten. A totally novel environment, dozens of previously unseen people, a brand new teacher and all that jazz. Her lovely Parents, ready to teach her all about society and the school system, accompanied Katerina to what often is a thrilling (and intimidating) experience for kids, only to get themselves speed-trained.
Katerina, entering the kindergarten yard, looked around, walked up to a little girl who was also standing there, held her hand and started whispering in her ear. By the end of the day one, they were giggling, playing and comfortably running around. Katerina had cultivated a new relationship well enough to proudly announce to her Parents that she had made a new friend.
“What’s her name?” asked Mom. “I don’t know; I didn’t ask!” said Katerina. And this, Ladies and Gentlemen, is inclusion. A concept where Names are mere Tags, and (guess what?) Tags don’t matter. Because the essence lies elsewhere. The essence lies in acknowledging and acting upon how someone makes you feel, regardless of any possible labels. And Katerina, aged five, is already serving the World some pretty powerful lessons about the essence of cultivating relationships in ways they can’t teach you at uni.
Meanwhile, I have just completed a Program at the Josh Bersin Academy about the Agile Learning Organization and, in one of the modules, Josh and the Faculty acquaint us with the concept of the key Learning Relationships, aka the different types of relationships one can form at Work to facilitate learning, namely:
- Mentors, our critical partners in learning who provide us with advice and guidance, a shoulder to lean on. We can be more vulnerable with mentors than we can with a boss or manager—including admitting mistakes and asking for help—because the stakes are lower.
- Coaches, our more tactical, less personal partners in learning, whose role is to help us develop skills that will allow us to perform our current roles better and to inspire us to do more. Coaches are more directive in their interactions with us than mentors; they have a clear sense of what we need to learn and how to get us to be better.
- Sponsors, a modern version of the master-apprentice model. They help put us in positions of power and have a stake in our careers; they put themselves on the line because if we succeed, they will too. In this way, they’re the most prescriptive and involved in how we grow.
- Peers, who offer incredibly fruitful learning experiences. We learn from the people around us who are doing the same or similar job but have different experiences, perspectives, or ideas. Peers can play roles similar to mentors, coaches, or sponsors, but without the power dynamic.
It’s nice to rethink of your work environment as a network of vivid Learning Relationships, but it’s even nicer to realize how transferable this concept is at home! I didn’t see it until Senior Faculty Member Robert M. Burnside pointed it out to me during a chat in the forums but, being a Mother, I am provided with numerous occasions and an infinite amount of opportunities to take up each and every one of these roles!
Sometimes I’m the Sponsor, oftentimes I’m the Coach, many times I’m the Mentor, most of the times I’m the Peer. As I go about my business, my little one is rotating around the exact same Learning roles: the same way he gets to learn from what I do, I get to learn from what he does! No matter the role, the experiences remain equally transformative!
I see my son practice his newly acquired walking skills around the house, falling down and swiftly getting back up again, and I am shown how far determination and excitement can lead you. He sees me use a fork to eat my lunch, and he tries to mimic my fine motor skills to capture food on his own. He sees the upper library shelf that he can’t touch just yet, and reaches out to his peers for support that will help him meet his goal. It’s a tango, Momma! And how lucky you are to practice it with such a distinguished companion!
Realizing the potential of this two-way Learning Relationship broadens the magnitude of the impact a Child can have onto your existence. I couldn’t possibly have known this before, but I sure see it now: allowing this Learning spree to flourish within, practicing the different roles and inviting the lessons (and the feedback) as they get served, is what makes the colorful Parenting journey so damn worth it!