February 4, 2020
Are You a Pail Filler or Fire Lighter?
One of my favorite education quotes comes from one of my favorite poets (next to Ron Wilson, of course), William Butler Yeats. "Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire."
“The filling of a pail” refers to providing learners and clients with just information. It is so Google and so Wikipedia. I have to admit, I cringe when I hear colleagues or volunteers say that we supply great information. We do, but we are so much more than that. If we merely fill a pail, even with better information than Google or Wikipedia provides, we are not doing much for the learner or society. Education that is not used to improve lives, livelihoods, and communities is merely trivia.
Great Extension professionals and volunteers emphasize “lighting a fire.” They provide relevant education that learners are desirous for because the education will, once implemented, positively transform their lives, livelihoods, and communities. Great Extension professionals and volunteers create this desire by first working with the people they serve to determine and prioritize the most important issues to address.
Great Extension professionals and volunteers then make sure that the fire takes hold and rages on. They do this by developing, adopting, adapting, and delivering relevant educational programs in ways that better ensure uptake by their learners. Great Extension professionals then throw additional fuel on the fire by following up with the learners to bring the education to life. They do this by helping them determine how to best implement the education in their lives, livelihoods, and communities.
Next, great Extension professionals and volunteers then look to sustain the fire for life transforming education by determining, reporting on, and celebrating the success of the transformational education program(s). They then ask the people they serve “What’s next?”
What type of Extension office, unit, department and professional do you want to be, a pail filler or fire lighter? I hope you are looking for your matches.