It has been almost a decade since I’ve been in school. Today I returned.
To me, Fall begins when Back to School commercials appear on the TV once again. No matter how long I have been out of school I still get an urge to buy pencils, notebooks and binders and dig into a new textbook. I love learning, I always have. What I don’t love is the stress of grades and performance. I love learning without any restrictions or limitations (i.e. things that have to be turned in or known otherwise your teacher will be mad at you). If I could sit in on lectures and classes my whole life I probably would. Learning is beautiful, exciting and it opens up new possibilities.
Since I began my job at our local University I have overheard my boss talking about courses he was auditing. Dreams of getting to take a class this fall began consuming my thoughts and finally I asked “Would it be possible for me to take French this fall?” My boss was thrilled. “Yes, take it with me! We can speak French in the office!” I gently reminded him that it had been almost 15 years since my last French class so I’d be starting at level one. His enthusiasm only slightly diminished, he replied “Oh, okay…well, take the afternoon class with Yann, he’s great!” With that, I submitted my form to the Registrar and my journey began.
Today was my first day of class. I worked over 45 hours last week preparing for our Freshmen to begin their college career, and I felt as excited, (probably more, if I’m honest) as they did walking to class today. I also felt a little nervous, hoping I’d find the classroom, hoping I’d not stand out too badly (I’m 10+years older than these kids) and that it would be as fun as I had hoped.
It was fun, but it was different. I was prepared with my paper and pen and yet I found myself feeling like I should’ve brought my iPad. I felt ill-equipped to jump into this 21st Century mode of learning. Our syllabus, powerpoints, labs, everything were online. I felt at a loss without a syllabus in my hand that I could jot notes on, unable to circle and underline and star important information. It was all on the screen, on the web, out of reach from my pen.
The teacher however was not unfamiliar. A white-haired, charming frenchman he joked and laughed and made the class feel at home. He fiddled with the technology and although he used it well, it left me at a loss with my notebook. I jotted down a few words, just so my pen didn’t feel useless in my hands.
This is a new world of learning. I still remember taking French when I was 16 years old at a local community college. The professor wrote the alphabet in chalk on the board and we practiced pronunciation over and over. Today, I watched a youtube video of a frog pronouncing the alphabet and I repeated after him. It’s a different world.
I am so excited to be in the classroom again, I love our professor, I enjoy my fellow students, and while I feel like an old hat at school in one sense, in another I feel oddly unfamiliar with this method. I know youtube, I’ve built several classes for faculty with the online format used, and yet, being on the receiving end I now realize that the classroom has changed. It’s not what I’m used to, it’s not bad, it’s just new. The way education is presented changes with each generation based on their culture and needs, but the foundational process of learning, analyzing, and assimilating information has not changed. I still learned how to pronounce the french alphabet — a frog taught me instead of marks of chalk. The basics are there but they come in a different package.
I’ll be honest though…I still miss the chalk.