How is designing your life like creating a class?


Over at Bold at Work, we have long been inspired by the idea of a Real World School where we re-imagined the entire neighborhood of Yuhua, Jurong transformed into a campus where different PEOPLE, young and old, each with their unique life experiences, stories and talents; and different PLACES — the hipster café around the corner, the park connector behind the block, an auntie’s flat, could be activated for “teaching” and learning.

We believe that the desire to learn is universal (have you guys heard the cool story about 70-year old South Korean grandmas going back to school?) and that the best way to learn is through experiential, hands-on, real-world interactions. But how do we excite people to want to learn in Singapore, a society that has traditionally focused on teaching, and not learning? How do we inspire a generation of “excellent sheep[1] to learn not for the sake of acing exams but for the joy of learning for learning’s sake?

A visit to the folks from Shibuya University Network

Almost serendipitously, our newfound friends at Shibuya University Network [YY1] (an NPO based in Shibuya City, Japan with the vision of providing accessible and broad-based “Life Education” for free), taught us that we must “make the class you want to take”. Instead of employing staff or teachers to develop lesson plans, Shibuya University looks for volunteer coordinators who are themselves passionate to learn more about a specific topic. These could range from a 7-year old who creates a class to show people the charming district of Omotesando in little home-made cardboard trains, through the eyes of a child; to an adventure in picking and planting acorns in the park. These coordinators do everything from finding a teacher with the requisite expertise, securing a suitable venue and materials, enlisting fellow learners etc) to make ‘the class’ (learning) happen.

On reflection, I see parallels between how one coordinates a class that satisfies his/her own thirst for learning and how one designs a life that works for him/her. I think it boils down to two fundamentals:

1. Get in Here

Name and claim your interests and passions, without fear of judgment. Given the freedom to learn anything that you could ever want to, what would you choose to learn? What excites you and what makes you tick? Interested to learn how to communicate with cockroaches? Accept it, own it and commit to it even if people look at you weirdly when you tell them about it.

Understand your motivations. What is it that you really want to learn about this topic and why do you want to learn it?

2. Get out There

Don’t just keep your interests and passions to yourself. To make a class successful, there must be fellow learners who are equally interested in the topic of your choice. Get out there and tell people about it!

You may be surprised to find that you are not the only one with a cockroach fetish! When that happens, you would have found a community of fellow learners and even possibly an expert who is willing to share tips and knowledge. While studying can be done alone, the best learning happens when the Self is challenged by Others. Understand that you exist in the context of others and stay curious and open to new people, new perspectives because innovation, and new learning occurs as people share and exchange ideas and insights.

And finally, don’t just plan, ACT! “The ratio of something to nothing is infinite”. Now that you have determined what you want to learn, checked that it is of interest to not just you but other registered fellow passionate learners and enlisted a willing teacher, go ahead and make the class happen!

Knowing yourself and understanding the world you live in is key to success in the real world, be it in coordinating classes and in life. So get in here and get out there now!

Written by Hong Ruo Yi

[1] See William Deresiewicz’ book, “Excellent Sheep” which posits that a result-oriented system manufactures students who are smart, talented and driven but also anxious, timid and lost with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose; heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they are doing but with no idea why they are doing it.

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Have something you’ve always wanted to learn but never had the chance to because no one seems to be offering a class the way you like it?

Make the class YOU want to take!

This July, join us in transforming Yuhua into a Real World School by signing up as a class coordinator and learn how to coordinate learning in and for the community! Drop us a note at today.