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Life is the master

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Can you learn English by cooking?

Life is the master we were always told by wise older people. In fact in life, from life we learn. We work, we relate to one other, we think and feel, we live, we make mistakes… luckily we do mistakes!

There is of course anxiety when we own a mistake at work or at school, there is frustration when we keep doing mistakes.

“Mistakes” however are the most important learning points at school and at work. And they are the engine of the progress, may I daresay.

“Thank you, Eve!”

A pupil of mine wrote once an essay titled “Thank you, Eve!

She, my pupil, was right! Her mindset was right!

Such a mindset is a stepping stone to stand on when we get anything wrong! So, thank you Eve!

Mistakes seem to be failures, but they are not. They are keys to open doors on new horizons. Through errors we may discover aspects of life that we wouldn’t otherwise have known. 

“Eve’s pattern” –doing, getting wrong, do it again– (supposing that Eve got anything wrong which is debatable), such a pattern is actually regular in most of the human activities.

Scientists call this process “by trial“. Indeed we can’t prove much of a theory without putting it “on trial”.

In medicine -this is quite currently evident- we don’t know if a remedy works unless is “on trial“. Not only it is a common procedure in sciences or daily life: also our relations follow a similar process. 

Love your life and you will understand it

Young children are the most advanced scientists: whatever they learn, they learn by trial. Furthermore, they enjoy it!

Their “knowledge” -if I can call with this name the outcome of their sensorial experiences- is immediate, syncretic to the experience itself.  

Children learn by being active more than every other age because they have a secret: they are full of love for what they are doing!

Children are not trapped by the results of their activity: they just love it and do it.

We adult don’t get the same immediate understanding of our experiences.

We struggle much more to grasp the meaning of events crossing our life-path, we have to fight to get that understanding.

In adults that spontaneous mindset that we can call “love your life now” becomes blurry, often buried under a cloud of mental schemes that chained the  spontaneity and genuine passion for genuinely doing and saying what we love.

A golden compass and two helpers

To sail through those struggles our most powerful option is to hold tight a golden compass.

The compass is love.

Love for life whatever life you are in.

Love is the main star that can direct every step of life towards good ends.

It would be very difficult however to keep our love fresh and alive on our own. We always need to ask for the support of helpers.

Lev Tolstoy actually called “warriors” the helpers we need in life in support of love: they are time and patience.

When we consistently feed our love for life, when we grow our awareness with the help of time and patience, our learning  journey may eventually succeed and continue across our whole existence. 

“Discere faciendo”

In AEL I call this process “learning by doing”. 

Learning by doing doesn’t only refer to certain manual or physical activities. It applies to all dimensions of life.

Let’s consider a simple activity, that seems more appropriate for an apprenticeship than for academic learning. Let’s consider baking.

In baking -and may I add cooking, just to stay in the same area- there is a lot of a learning process. The outcomes of learning in baking and cooking go well over the boundaries of each specific activity.

Have a product in mind, collect ingredients, bake them all together, get the mix wrong, do it again, find another way…

Finally add the ingredient that grandmother called “love for your dough“! and a delicious food is served!

Want to be original? Get ready to be wrong

You need to go through those steps –doing, getting wrong, do it again– and make valuable each of them whatever the “wrong-doing” might have been or appeared.

Rely then on the innate creativity of a learner rather than channel the final outcome into pre-formatted schemes or even stereotypes.

In this case it is clear: a kitchen recipe is a guidance, never a dogma, is it? Could this attitude be valid for other realms?

My suggestion is yes! but it’s not just a personal opinion. It is a modern vision of life that many can share.

“If you are not prepared to be wrong, 

you’ll never come up with anything original”

Ken Robinson. 

This is a fact rather than an opinion!

When I started a pilot project of “learning English by doing and living in the country where English is a lively means of communications” (1998), I didn’t know anything about Ken Robinson. 

Only recently I discovered that 21 years earlier (1977) he wrote about “Learning through drama”

“Learning through….” : this is exactly what “Active English Learning” is about.

So, in this winter time before Christmas, when we have to live more indoors, why don’t we try to spend more time baking and cooking? better if involving our children!

Scones, ginger biscuits, daily bread… whatever: let’s bake, get it wrong and do it again! (then hopefully at some point we will get it right… ).

And, by the way, can you learn English by cooking?