This blog is on topics of interest to early career professionals who work with people with disabilities. Blog contributors have diverse perspectives on leadership, professional development, and success in changing systems to better serve people with disabilities and their families. For more information on Early Career Professionals, check out the website: www.aucd.org/ecp

02 June, 2010

“The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.”

“The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.” – Carl Rogers

Not only is Carl Rogers one of my favorite psychologists because he believed that intervention should be “person-centered” and education should be “student-centered” (I see this as parallel to LEND’s family-centered care emphasis), but also because his life story is a remarkable example of how one can learn from their experiences and change. Rogers’ parents, as he reported, very much cared for him and raised him with a strong ethical foundation. His father insisted a “scientific” basis to his work and that of his children, and this influenced his decision to go into agriculture. After attending several religious conferences during college he decided to go into the ministry. When that field did not feel quite right, he began to explore other options, took a few classes in psychology, and eventually he found his place in the field.

How does Carl Rogers tie into my blog post about professional development? Well, the quote at the beginning of this post is a personal “mission statement” for my own professional development. Some people might say that I rarely use the clinical skills I learned in my clinical child psychology training in my current career as an AUCD Program Manager. However, the skills I learned in my graduate training, including my LEND traineeships at Indiana University’s Riley Child Development Center and the University of Miami’s Mailman Center for Child Development, are skills I use and build on every day.

How is this possible? I sought out and took advantage of every opportunity that presented itself to me, and continue to do so. I have always known that I wanted to do several different things with my degree, and my experiences throughout my early professional development have allowed me to do just that. However, very few of the larger opportunities will simply fall into a person’s lap. When I wanted to attend the AUCD Annual Conference and Policy Seminar as a trainee, I told my director it would benefit me, but I would also come back with the knowledge and materials to share with 100 other trainees. During graduate school, I wanted more exposure to different cultures and to teaching. I spoke with the dean about how spending time at our sister school in Athens, Greece would benefit my education and allow me to share my unique experiences with the Greek students. Because I wanted to use my experience to benefit others, they were willing to help me achieve my goals.

Every opportunity inspired me to think in a different way, continue to learn, and pass my knowledge on to others. Not only did these experiences change the way I thought about my field, but it enabled me to see the “big picture” (i.e., a broader or systems perspective). Talk to your mentors and directors about various opportunities and possibilities. I encourage you to seek out opportunities, even if they seem out of reach. If you find one that would help you learn and grow, figure out a way to help it benefit others as well, and share this with your mentor or director. The experiences a person seeks out above and beyond the basic requirements can truly help them attain a unique perspective that will enable them to continue to “learn and change.”

Note: You can learn more about Carl Rogers by reading his classic text On Becoming a Person or The Carl Rogers Reader.

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