Monday, August 27, 2012
Back to School: It's Not Just Kid Stuff
Posted by Jennifer Lamont Leo
I've been out of school for years--yea, decades. And yet there's something about the end of August, when mornings are suddenly cool and there's a new snap in the air, that makes me yearn to stock up on the accoutrements of school: clean unspoiled notebooks, pens fat with dark ink, and freshly sharpened pencils with unsullied erasers. (That the erasers are unsullied means no mistakes have been made yet. How could anyone not yearn for that blissful state of grace?)
I'll admit, the back-to-school aisle at Staples or Office Depot makes my heart beat faster. Have you seen some of the cool stuff that's available today? Begone, bland manila folder! Fie on thee, utilitarian paper clip! Today's students may choose folders in every color combination imaginable, brilliant neon notepads, rainbows of pens, thumbtacks and paper clips with clever motifs to help students express their true selves through their choice of supplies, although I realize that my own list of dream-worthy objects "expresses" my age more than anything else. Today's students daydream about digital gadgets, not sharpened pencils.
Still, every schoolchild knows that the real New Year's Day is the first day school, not January first. As I've said before, by January you've been cast in your role as the class clown or drama queen or nerd. By the time snow falls, you're already ahead of the pack in English and falling behind in math (or was that just me?). But the first day of school, with its unsmudged college-ruled paper and uncracked books still smelling of the printshop, holds the delicious promise that This Year Will Be Different.
As an adult, I encourage you to grab hold of some of that back-to-school hopefulness for yourself. Our fine local brick-and-mortar colleges, of course, welcome adult learners. And thanks to the Internet, the world is your proverbial oyster. Sites like Udemy.com and MIT Open Courseware make it simple to take courses in oodles of subjects, just for the love of them. Or design your own personal "curriculum" in a subject area that interests you. For inspiration, search the Web for, say, "syllabus medieval history" to get a peek at universities' reading lists and study plans for the topic. Or simply visit your local public library or bookstore and browse the stacks for titles in your field, or pick up those classics you've always meant to read but have never gotten around to. Check online for book discussion groups and fellow adult learners on a similar path. At the very least, you owe it to yourself to visit an office supply store and fill a basket with fun tools and supplies that will add a dose of fun to mundane writing tasks.
Youth may be wasted on the young, but learning need never be. Get out there and give your mind a workout today!