Then, in January, I began listening to the audio version of Chris Anderson’s TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking. In it he shares how TED, seeing the vital role of self-education but understanding the motivation to take the time is often difficult, gives its employees every other Wednesday off to devote to learning about something for which they have a passion. In return, the employees then give back to TED by sharing what they learn in a TED Talk for the company. “That meant we all got to benefit from one another’s knowledge but, crucially, it also provided the key incentive for people to get on with it and actually learn.”1
In Mr. Anderson’s words, we see the double benefit of self-education. It is necessary for our own growth and through what we learn, we can also serve our community. Miss Mason, more than a century ago, shared Mr. Anderson’s vision with the graduates from the House of Education, the teacher training school at Ambleside.
It is astonishing how little fire will kindle a torch, and this is a thought to encourage us in depressed moments if we were not all too healthy minded to have any such moments! But, please remember that enthusiasm is a fire that throws out lights and heat at a cost of constant waste of fuel. Do not for a moment suppose that you can warm yourselves and others for months together upon the original stock you brought from Ambleside. Every day new “thoughts that burn” must be supplied or the fire will go out and present the dreariest of all spectacles, a desolate hearth. Where shall we get new ideas? … Read, not only in The Book, which one cannot read without may life-giving thoughts, but almost any good book, poetry, biography, history, essays, good novels,--all will supply our need. … Never be without a really good book in hand. If you find yourself sinking to a dull commonplace level, with nothing particular to say, the reason is probably that you are not reading and, therefore, not thinking.
…[I] will offer just one other little word of counsel--study. I know that all good teachers have some study each day in preparing for the next day’s work, but, besides this, study some two or three subjects, definitely on your own account. Do not think this a selfish thing to do, because the advantage does not end with yourself. Every hour of definite study enriches your mind and increases your power, so that, the more you study in your spare time, the more there is in you to bestow upon your pupils.2
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2 Mason, Charlotte. L’Umile Pianta, Jan. 1896, pp. 3&4