Anna Wohlesser: A “Facilitator of Learning”

9 Apr

I had the pleasure of becoming connected to Anna Wohlesser, an Austrian living in Poland, when she wrote to me after having come across the Eduventurist blog. She was enthusiastic about the project, and offered to skype with me for an interview! What’s interesting about Anna is that in addition to leading an unconventional freelance career, she herself works to help others discover the world of alternative education. She describes herself as a “facilitator of learning,” and works with groups of people in Europe to support their learning process.

Anna attended college and received a bachelor in political science. However, she struggled with issues that are familiar to many people who have gone through this system. “When I signed up for studying, I didn’t know what I was signing up for, I just felt I needed to study because I didn’t know what else to do.” She also makes the point that she didn’t know who to talk to that could tell her what her other options were. “I didn’t have the feeling that there was a choice that would make any sense for me.”

Although she went the traditional college path, the real inspiration for her career and nontraditional pathway into this world of alternative education really started when she was 18 and she went abroad to Poland to take part in European Voluntary Service that is part of the Youth in Action Programme of the European Commission.. It was through this experience that she was exposed to a whole new world of “seeing” education. Then, 3 years ago she participated in a a long term training course called Training of Trainers that was based on self directed learning. This was another turning point where she realized that there was a concept to what she believed in. Before then, “there had been all these fluffy ideas in my head and I didn’t really know how to formulate them.” This resonated with me as well, as I have realized that one barrier to charting “unexplored territories” is the lack of language, terms, and popular concepts that can be used when thinking or dialoguing about these new sectors of our world.

“I am reassured over and over again that part of my path is to help other people find their own way,” Anna reflects, “That is my element as Ken Robinson would say, it’s something I’m good at but it’s also my passion.” As her job is pretty nontraditional, “most of my family or friends don’t understand what I do. They know it has to do with something educational, something international, something self development, something, etc.” This led her to create a blog (nicely titled “Becoming A Changemaker”) for people to begin to understand what it is that she does, as there isn’t really a popularized job description or title for it. She also uses her blog to further solidify her own vision, and has found that it allows her to make connections with others that share her ideas around education.

A few more things that stuck out in our conversation:

  • Holistic Approach to Learning: “I think I’m realizing that what was missing from university was the heart. You know, the vision and emotions that are all a part of our everyday life and are really crucial and influence us and have an affect on us, but at university I had the feeling that there was very little space for that.”
  • Caution for being too anti-academia: “I was so frustrated with academia and research after university that I began to reject theory in general. I had the feeling that theory doesn’t serve anything, you just have this construction of reality that doesn’t apply, there’s no heart, there’s no emotion, there’s no gut… And I think that was a little bit of my own pitfall because I rejected it so much that I also rejected all the really brilliant things out there and really interesting theories and people, and it’s been a difficult way to get back there.”
  • Getting Help and Advice from others: “I’m realizing that a lot of this pathway is about working with the unknown, trusting the unknown, going into the unknown, and connecting yourself to other people, because you’re not alone in this. I had always thought I needed to save the world alone. And then I realized, ‘No! …so many people want to help me!’ Connecting your passions to other people’s passions is one of the key things. If you know that there is someone who has more or less the same vision, it’s not that heavy anymore. You don’t have to carry all the weight of the not knowing alone. People very often are more than happy to help!”

Thanks Anna!

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