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Pat Your Head and Rub Your Belly: A Learning & Teaching Cycle

It’s been over two decades since I started college, but September is still a special month for me.  I want to run out and buy myself a new backpack, or at least sharpen a few pencils.  Aliana, my second-grade daughter, is pretty excited to go back to school too – I’ve been sublimating my back-to-school shopping impulses with her.  I love the energy that comes with September.  I love that Lansing gets crazy again because the students are back.

With all this academic excitement in the air, I thought I’d use this space to think and talk about the learning and teaching cycle, a process I think we could all harness to be happier and more powerful agents of change.

First, let me set the stage with some observations:

  • Life gets crazy after we leave school and enter the “grown up” world of work.
  • Very few work environments encourage us to stay fresh, to continue to seek and learn.
  • The lack of training and development in work environments is part of what makes us lose hope and enthusiasm – it’s the same old, same old.  This in turn leads us to hopscotch through new jobs when we can’t stand the boredom anymore.

It does not have to be this way.

My vision is this: that we are all both learning something to keep us humble and teaching something to help us feel masterful – at the same time.

It can be hard to think of yourself as a teacher.  What do you, one small peep, have to offer others?  Well, anything and everything that you have learned on the way to becoming who you are today.  Also, remember that your strongest gifts and talents come so naturally to you, you don’t even think of them as important.  But they are, and other peeps would greatly benefit from your teaching of them.  And the more you recognize what you have to offer, the more you will step out to meet the opportunities and challenges out there waiting for you.

It can also be hard to think of yourself as a learner.  Our society rewards mastery, bravado and big egos.  The more confident and together you seem, the more approval you get.  It takes guts, in my opinion, to stay humble and open to new learning.  We are not usually rewarded for showing the soft underbelly of our insecurities and self-doubts.  But it’s where it’s at, my dear peep, because when you come from a place of learning and curiosity then you’re not trying to control the outcome.  As my favorite Louise Hay affirmation has it: the point of power is always in the present moment.  And when you are learning, you are in the present.

The trick here is to do both at once –kinda like patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time.  But take it from me, my dear peep: I’ve been doing it for a while now, and it really works.  You feel useful and hopeful.  Powerful and infinitesimally small.

What do you think?  What are you currently learning and/or teaching?

12 Responses to Pat Your Head and Rub Your Belly: A Learning & Teaching Cycle

  1. Maira September 6, 2011 at 8:21 pm #

    Such an awesome post about the wide chasm between learning and teaching. Yet, often, the best teachers I have ever had, undertand that they are ALWAYS learning. This allows them and me to stay open and fresh.

    And amen to Ms. Hay’s affirmation! You have very simply but powerfully captured the true strength that lies in vulnerability.

    Right now, I teach about staying present and helping others to become more aware of the unconditional yes that every moment brings. And, I am learning about the power of playing, of following my wander and letting go of the need to control everything! Great great stuff.

    Thanks for a wonderful post. It was like hot buttered toast after shoveling a driveway full of snow!


    • Julica Hermann September 7, 2011 at 2:04 pm #

      Wow, Maira, thank you for your kind words. We are clearly in the same tribe; I, too, am learning how to “follow my wander” (love that phrase!) and letting go of control. And so many opportunities to learn that lesson, eh? ::grin::

  2. Gwen Parks September 6, 2011 at 9:36 pm #

    Hi Julica…Perfect subject for a September blog. I remember the beginning of classes, when the possibilities of interesting and fun classes was just unfolding, and the prospect of exams were in the distant horizon. Heaven!

    You are spot on here about learning and teaching. When I listen to learn, I find I listen in a whole different way, and that connection and humility can provide the great opportunity to be a teacher back. I am humbly still learning balance and patience, and teaching others that we don’t have to have “the answer” to be valuable!

    Love your blogs and learning from you!

    Your honesty and commitment to living completely authentic, joyful lives shines through.

    • Julica Hermann September 7, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

      Powerfully said, Gwen…when we open to learning is when we are best as teachers, too. Thank you for your sweet words…love you, sweetie!

  3. Wendy Beall September 6, 2011 at 11:40 pm #

    That’s one of my favorite quotations, too, Julica, but as a metaphysical maven, I have to mention that Louise Hay got it from Seth, a no-longer-physically-focused being who spoke through Jane Roberts for a couple of decades starting in 1963. Doesn’t that sound SPOOKY! Seth is the one who said, “You create your own reality.”

    But what I really want to say is, “Welcome to the blogosphere!” Your site looks marvellous, darling! And I love the title of your class.

    • Julica Hermann September 7, 2011 at 2:07 pm #

      Thank you for the correction, Wendy! I’m all about giving credit where credit is due, corporeality notwithstanding (ha ha).
      And thank you for your welcome. I’m dizzy with excitement to actually begin this blogging thing. Woot!

  4. Rachael Acklin September 7, 2011 at 10:52 am #

    Julica darling, you have managed to write exactly as you speak. What a treat to see you here and soak up your wisdom. :)

    • Julica Hermann September 7, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

      Aw shucks, Rachael. ::scuffing foot:: That means a lot to me! Thank you! :)

  5. Julie Daley September 7, 2011 at 11:14 am #


    Your site and your blog are fantastic. I love your writing style. And the content looks so useful. Congratulations on beginning your blog. We are all going to benefit from your wise words being available here.


    • Julica Hermann September 7, 2011 at 2:10 pm #

      Julie, that means so much to me coming from you…I think your brand and your site fit you to a tee. (I’ve been admiring from afar, but you didn’t know that.) Thank you so much!

  6. Kirsten September 8, 2011 at 2:24 pm #

    Great article! As someone with a foot in both worlds (full time grad student and teacher/coach), I’d say there’s a lot to being in the present moment at all times, whether you’re learning or not. Because in some sense, even teaching is learning – you’re just learning on a different level than your students are.

    • Julica Hermann September 8, 2011 at 2:56 pm #

      Thanks, Kirsten. Yes indeed: we learn most when we teach, and perhaps teach most as we stay in learning mode. Good luck with the grad school journey. I started coaching when I was a grad student, too.