For the first time in as long as I can remember, I didn’t spend the waning days of August with a pit in my stomach, apprehensive about the impending start of a new school year and rehashing recess rivalries. It’s been 20 years since I graduated high school – maybe I’m finally starting to put that baggage behind me. And if so, it’s all thanks to my kids. Sure, they’re young enough to not have experienced homework yet, but this week they are entering dramatically new stages in their educational journeys. Contrary to my childhood experience, as summer wound down, they faced the voyage ahead with great aplomb – if anything, they were looking forward to it!
I’m not quite there yet. I don’t pine for the student days. But what I can say for sure is that my outlook on my own educational journey from Grade 1 to 12 has evolved with time. Looking back now, the lens has softened significantly.
For starters, there’s one thing I can’t deny: I learned a lot. Mind you, much of what I learned, I learned in spite of myself. Undoubtedly, I could have learned much, much more if I hadn’t sabotaged myself with laziness and indifference. But I still managed to graduate high school with a trove of knowledge stuck in my head. And lo and behold, a surprising amount of it has turned out to be useful, both personally and professionally.
My perspective on teachers has changed considerably, too, not least because I have a better understanding now of just how much dedication is required to be good at the job (and a firmer conviction that I would be terrible at it). A good teacher is, hands down, the best present any school can offer a student. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.
But I don’t have warm, mushy feelings about the overall school experience. Not yet, at least. Are those memories there somewhere, hidden underneath the residual layers of social ineptness, teenage angst and performance anxiety? I’d like to think so, but I’m really not sure. It’s entirely possible that I was too self-obsessed to see all the opportunities that were surrounding me. I’m thinking more and more that if I had a bad school experience, it’s my own darn fault.
Well, at least maybe I now know where I went wrong, and if my kids ever run into the same issues, I can help steer them to a better route. In the meantime, their early exuberance for schooling suggests they got my wife’s educational DNA – she loved school – which bodes well for us all.
But if you’re a student starting the school year right now, and you’re feeling the way I felt when I was in school, I’d like to say something: there is so much to learn. All you have to do is think about what interests you. If all else fails – if you don’t fit in, or you just feel like you don’t; if you resent all the rules and structure, or you literally can’t abide by them – at least there is always that. I wish I would’ve figured it out sooner.