It seems like I have always been in a classroom. My mom tells stories of me standing in front of a “class” of dolls, pretending to read aloud to them before I could read real words myself, writing things down and showing them how to make the letters. (Knowing me, I was probably barking orders at them and getting frustrated by their inability to produce results!!) Cliché, maybe, and maybe my mom is making it up or practicing selective memory—but the bottom line is, I have always been one for education.
That love of the classroom eventually turned me into a perpetual student. I was always at school, and always in school—high school, college, grad school, grad school, grad school…I graduated from high school in 1986 and earned my PhD in 2006. That is 20 years of some kind of continuous academic activity. Yikes!!!
I used to joke and say that I stayed in school because I didn’t want to get a “real” job. But the joke was on me, evidently, because school eventually became my job. I started teaching Spanish while I was still in graduate school, and kept on teaching until last year. Teaching was another way for me to learn—every class, every student, every lesson I prepared taught me something new. But thirteen months ago, I came to the First Year Success program, and I wondered: if I wasn’t in the classroom anymore, just what would I be learning?
Over the course of the past year in FYS, the answer has kind of come to me by accident. The classroom might look a little different—it’s more like the WORLD is my classroom—but I am constantly learning nonetheless. One would think that with all of my fancy education that I would know a thing or two—but that could NOT be farther from the truth! The learning curve has been so steep over the past 13 months that sometimes I have cried, or taken my frustration out on my kids, or accidentally run a few extra miles just trying to burn off the sense of overwhelming failure I feel when I don’t know what I’m doing. I learn something new literally every day that I come to work—it’s kind of hilarious, actually! Just when I think I am moving ahead and getting to know what I’m doing, something new comes up and I feel like I’m back at square one.
Of course, I am making progress. I have learned a TON. But that doesn’t mean that there is not more to learn. And that doesn’t mean that it won’t hurt a little bit when I do the work of learning.
My kids go to a school whose motto is “Creating joyful, lifelong learners.” When I chose that school, the motto seemed so attractive—that is definitely something I want for my kids. But I don’t think that learning stops in middle school. I believe that, for me, “lifelong” really means just that—after high school, through college, into career, and hopefully into a long old age where I will be surprised and challenged by new ideas all the time.
I think that learning is often intertwined with the idea of setting goals. Perhaps they are even the same thing—it seems logical that you will have to learn something new in order to stretch and achieve beyond where you are right now.
So what else do I want to learn?? What goals do I have? I have a dream of going to cooking school in France, but I might settle for taking some workshop-type classes on ethnic cooking right here in Denver. I would love to learn how to play the piano (or any musical instrument). I would like to know how to produce infographics and I would love to learn how to use Snapchat without looking old. I want to keep learning how to be a better and better friend, sister and daughter. I want to learn how to train effectively so that I can do triathlons in the summer.
Actually, I would love to learn how to relax and actually enjoy it! 🙂
Dr. Lunden MacDonald | Director, First Year Success Program