The school holidays barely seem to have begun, yet already the shop windows here in ‘ol Blighty are full of signs telling us any day now that we are all going ‘Back to School!”. One can only assume such fierce advertising is a way of empathising with those poor parents amongst you who have had to entertain your little treasures for the entire summer. I have to say at times I feel blessed to only have my pooches to care for. My great Dane Daniel Day-Lewis has never thrown a hissy fit because I could not find a Batman pencil case two days before school starts again. Bless him. But it got me thinking. I read recently that on average nearly fifty per cent of adults between the ages of twenty-five and sixty-five are in some form of adult education. Admittedly one can assume that a fairly large proportion of that may be work-related, but it is still a pretty impressive figure, no? As my dear Grandmama was so fond of saying, ‘One never stops learning young Benjamin”. It appears she may be right.
I have returned to education several times in my older years. Mostly just for fun. I have not always seen it through to the bitter end I grant you, but only because on those sad occasions it stopped being fun. One of the joys of learning past school and University years is that you can be there for the love of the subject. Not because it will get you a job. Invariably you enrol in a course as an adult studying something you love, as I said, and having an interest in what you are learning is a sure-fire way to succeed. The subject matter is irrelevant; a new language, that art course you have always been dying to do, or even plumbing. Whatever floats your boat. Passion will see you through the tough days. There are a plethora of ways to study now too. The world is indeed your oyster. You do not have to sit in a stuffy classroom if you would rather not. If you are a hermit, like my friend Horatio, you can sit safely behind a computer screen and take part in lectures all over the world. Many are available to download too, so you can watch them at a convenient time. Handy for those adult learners amongst you who have little learners of your own.
However, if you do decide to brave one of the great seats of learning and sit with others, it can be an even greater learning experience. Age sometimes brings wisdom. Sometimes. I was a veritable Grandfather to the young pups in most of my classes and this was not necessarily a bad thing. It may initially feel a tad daunting to feel so old amongst today’s youth, but it has its advantages from a learning perspective. One tends to be adept at sorting out the relevant information. So no hanging on every word a lecturer says, as long as you get the gist of what is being said, you can delve into the deeper stuff later. And it amazed me how unlike my first foray into the world of University, I did not feel the need to let the lecturers, (and my fellow students) know how much I knew. That constant need to impress or seek reassurance fell by the wayside. My insecurities gave way to natural confidence, which meant that I could leave it to all the other eager beavers to raise their hands every thirty seconds. Much more tranquil I can assure you.
By far the most fascinating aspect of returning to education for me though was the other students. As we get older we tend to socialise with people our own age. There is much to be learnt from the young. Boundless energy and enthusiasm can be contagious stuff. Just what you need if your course is more than a few weeks long. And the sense of satisfaction when you complete something is often far greater later in life. I see so many of my friend’s children acting all blasé about their achievements. As my niece, Henrietta-Handbag-Haley often says to me, ‘Own it girl!’. Be proud of yourself when you get that little diploma. Or that Gold Star. Whatever the prize may be.
One last little tip from little old me. Just don’t try and be the cool kid. It won’t wash with wise. Apparently, not everyone wants to see an overweight middle-aged man disco dance in lycra in the student bar. How was I supposed to know?