The Selfish Learner

By Dominique Murdock 

So there you are in class… the lecture has started, pens and pencils are diligently scribbling all around you, heads nod up and down in agreement with the lecture, and everyone seems to be in sync… except you. There you sit, worried, confused, and nervous because you feel like the bus left without you. At this point, you may look something like this…

Photo by Lucélia Ribeiro on Flickr

You begin to panic. You can literally feel your heart beating in your throat. You know that if you could just ask one well-worded question, you would have a better understanding of the lesson. You think about raising your hand, but the idea of interrupting the flow of class for your “stupid question” seems annoying and counterproductive to the learning environment. You feel stuck and frustrated… what do you do?

Photo from

First… you TAKE A BREATH. That’s right… step one to becoming a selfish (and in turn, more informed learner) is pausing your brain and taking a relaxing, clarifying breath. Kind of like this guy here…

See how his nostrils flare with confidence as he prepares himself to take on the world? Or rather the class? Yep, a deep breath can calm the receptors in your brain and allow you to achieve the clarity you need to focus.

The next step is to recognize your power. Yep, crazy thought but here, in our educational system, students have this beautiful thing called power, or more specifically, the ability to focus the class into the direction that best fits the needs of the students. As a learner, your main goal is to do just that… LEARN. As a paying college student, your #1 right is to attain information using the means that work best for your style of learning. What does this mean? It means that you have the absolute right to ASK QUESTIONS. No matter how big or small they may seem, questions are how we clarify understanding so that we can then move on to the next bit of consumed information. There is absolutely no way to learn without questioning, so you are encouraged and expected to do so. 🙂

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

So here’s the scoop on the term “selfish” and what it means in this context. We usually associate this term with negative connotations but, as a learner, to be selfish means to take learning into your own hands. That means raising your hand, politely pausing lectures when necessary, and… yes, you’ve guessed it.. ASKING QUESTIONS. A child who intends to discover something will never once stop asking “but, why?” as long as someone is willing to answer. In your learning, be that curious child! Don’t be afraid of what others might think about your question. You can bet that if you have a question, at least two other people in the class are wondering the same thing, even if they are afraid to ask it themselves. You never know how your newfound confidence in asking questions can actually inspire others to do the same. Imagine that! YOU… an inspiration and a leader in the classroom. Sounds pretty cool, right?

Remember: The Selfish Learner is an Autonomous Learner. Do me a favor and Google that term before your next class and see if you can’t improve your learning!

Featured image by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Dominique Murdock just graduated from the Rossier School of Education where she studied Teaching English to Second Language Speakers. Dominique is a native of Detroit, Michigan but has recently decided the west coast can adopt her. She has an overwhelming passion for humanity and hopes one day to impose tolerance on the world.  Just last year, Dominique was a 3.7 student at Howard University in Washington, DC where her exposure and interaction with the global society was stimulated. As a Gates Scholar, Dominique has had the privilege of volunteering with peers from all over the world. She is a lover of travel, language, and culture and aspires one day to write a novel curtailing her journeys. Murdock, as her friends like to call her, is a lover of life and an advocate for vitality.