Recently, I received an inquiry from someone seeking to connect with me in my role as a long-term instructional designer. Three words she used in particular made me smile.
“Amateur” — she identified herself as an “amateur instructional designer” — which I loved! One of the thought leaders in the creativity field whom I follow closely is Austin Kleon. In Show Your Work, he advises, “Be an Amateur,” noting that the word originates from the French and refers to someone who does the work or art or music or dance out of love for it. He quotes Charlie Chaplin, saying “That’s all any of us are: amateurs. We don’t live long enough to be anything else.” So be proud of that amateur status, that love of the field, its study, the discipline itself and its implementation. I believe that, as instructional designers, if we lose our love for helping people learn, all is lost.
“Veteran” — in reference to my long years working in ID. We struggle to find descriptors for learners who are not “new” learners. If you say “old” workers, people are offended by inferred agism. Likewise, “senior” just means old to most, “tenured” makes it sound like they’re professors, and “seasoned” makes them sound ready for the grill. I like the word “veteran,” as it invokes the image of surviving battle after battle. Which pretty much describes project work of any sort.
“Mentor” — I must admit I have never really had a mentor. Not in any formal sense. So I’m not quite sure how I would function as one. I did learn quite a bit from a handful of people I decided to study and pay attention to. I was able to work for one or two or these people, but we never formalized any additional relationship. I have joked about them being my “quasi-mentors” (sounds like Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre Dame). I do think that sometimes we can choose a role model to serve as a “quasi-mentor,” simply through conversation and sharing of thoughts. I still find myself learning something from nearly everyone I really listen to.
Three simple terms, each ripe with meaning, both expressed and implied — I look forward to learning from each other!