Tis the Season to Go Back to School

When the end of August rolls around, I am really tiring of the heat. I begin to look forward to fall, the season of light jackets, turning leaves, local football, sweatshirts, and the next season of Survivor. Most of all, I’m looking forward to the newness that the new school year brings.

This is, of course a very optimistic way of looking at the “back to school” reality, as I’d like to acknowledge this assumption (accurate or not) that for every excited kindergartener counting down the days until they can use a backpack, there are two or three students who are dreading going back to school for a plethora of valid of reasons.

Also the reality that many teachers probably have mixed emotions about returning to the classroom after a few (very quick) months, or weeks of freedom and, hopefully, rest and rejuvenation.

I myself am preparing to start my third year of grad school this fall, in fact, I believe my first paper is due in exactly one week, so as soon as I’m done blogging and doing the dishes (I mean, helping my husband do the dishes!) I’ll get to work on reading.

However, this year is quite different for me since I’ve left my post of five years as a Student Affairs professional at a local private liberal arts college and am, by society’s standards, unemployed at the moment. ; )

August has not had the same rush and anxious preparatory feel as it usually does. (I’d like to say that its been more relaxing, except that my main responsibility this last month has instead been one artistic, dramatic, developing, lively and lovely toddler instead of 200 college freshmen… and so far, I’m not convinced which August life is less relaxing. More on that later perhaps.)

In spite of the fact that my August is drastically different than the previous five, it has triggered some thought about what this time of year brings with it for all involved: students (of all ages), parents, teachers, schools, etc. And so, I’d like to take a moment to cheer for those more involved than I find myself at the moment.

I’d like to cheer on the teachers, those fresh and veteran, those excited and hopeful, and those who are dreading the same old challenges that come with every new school year and with some students in particular that seem too heavy and complex to care about for too long.

I’d like to cheer on the parents, those teary-eyed and confused at where the time has gone as they watch their son or daughter off to school for the very first time, and those looking forward for the change of pace (might I offer the word, “balance”?) that comes with having their kids in school for six or so hours a day and the family back to its normal routine.

And I’d like to cheer on the students. Being a student can be really hard, its true. But press on dear student because the challenges that you work through now will prepare you for even bigger ones later in your life. But also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help is one of the best learning methods out there, and it allows others to support you. You weren’t meant to go about life on your own, so therefore, learning should not be such a strictly individual pursuit.

I cheer us all on! And in fact, at the risk of sounding corny, I’d like to inspire all of us to approach this new year (or to those of you not impacted by the academic calendar, the rest of the year) with the mindset that we all can be “life-long learners”. Learning is not something we do simply to get a degree in hopes of a better paying job, it is something we do all the time, whether we’re learning to be more apathetic about our own learning or active.

Let’s try to learn new things, whether it be having an open mind in a conversation with a colleague at work, figuring out how to best remodel your kitchen (oh how I’d LOVE to remodel my kitchen!), reading a new genre of book, perhaps reading a book at all, making new friends with different types of people, how to ask better questions in conversations, trying a new food or a new diet, redoing your budget… The possibilities for learning are endless! They must be taken advantage of though, so please do!

Switching gears, one of my “learning” goals this year has been to take something that I love to do and do something with it… you know, out there, out of my comfort zone. So, a few months ago, I opened an Etsy shop that sells digital posters and prints that I’ve been creating. There’s so much to learn about: new Illustrator techniques, internet marketing, SEO, copyright stuff, social networking (supposedly it would be a good idea to get a twitter account and USE it), blah!

While these are just a few examples that show just how intimidating learning can be, nevertheless, I’ve decided to take it in stride and admit there’s a learning curve to everything new, and take my best stab at it. I’d love for you to check it out, offer comments even! : )

  • What are new things you’re learning this year?
  • How do you pursue learning on a day to day basis?
  • I know I didn’t mention this here in this particular blog, but If you are religious, how do you see learning as a spiritual exercise or discipline?

3 Responses to Tis the Season to Go Back to School

  1. Melody

    Thanks for this post, Rachel! I, too, aspire to be a lifelong learner, and I appreciate your approach to this new school year with celebration rather than dread.

    I’m entering my sixth year as a family and community liaison with Minneapolis Public Schools, and I’m always trying to maintain healthy balance and perspective.

    These are three ways that I strive to be a lifelong learner:

    1. Being open to every person that crosses my path and trusting that God can teach me something through their story, experience or the way they see the world. One prime example is daily life with a toddler (as you know!); I love watching Elia discover the world and having her reteach me about wonder.

    2. Be present and pay attention.
    “Instructions for living a life.
    Pay attention.
    Be astonished.
    Tell about it.”
    -Mary Oliver

    3. Remembering to always look at the world with new eyes. I can look at a painting dozens of times and still always see something new. I can read a book or a poem again and be touched in new ways each time.
    “The true voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” -Marcel Proust

    May we all continue learning and discovering new things every day, and may we never cease to be astonished,

    Melody

    • Rachel

      Mel,

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment! I think you’ve hit the nail on the head for me when you mention being open to anybody teaching you something. So many times I think we miss this amazing piece of humility that is so vital in being a learner… of ANYTHING. If we get too caught up in only seeing what we have to offer than we miss out on valuable lessons that are so healthy and beneficial to us personally but also in validating those with whom we come in contact!

      Beautiful! Thanks for the reminder : )

  2. Dan

    Thanks for the post, Rachel! I do like learning, for the most part, but I do find it hard to fit it sometimes among the long days. But it helps to be reminded of the joys of learning, and not just the hours of work which at the time feels like you’re just banging your head against a wall. (And, those sometimes do happen, IMHO.)

    Also, I like the Etsy site! I’ll have to keep that in mind if I’m looking for fun typography or inspiring decorations! Great stuff!

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