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Returning to school 30 years later

by David Walker about a year ago in student
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my journey in starting over again

Just before the pandemic shut down the world, I ventured back into education. This wasn’t to get a G.E.D. as I did graduate from high school, way back in 1989. Yikes that was long ago. No, I went back with the idea to further my career options. After high school, I did not attend any college or university for 2 very good reasons. One, I was broke and the idea of taking on a ton of debt seemed scary at the time. Two, I had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and I didn’t want to waste money and years of schooling to pursue a degree in something I didn’t know if I wanted to do my whole life. I guess I could have used a career counselour back then.

After years of working in various fields and gaining skills in a variety of jobs, my body was telling me no more, you need to change direction. I also suppose that it took a long time to understand who I am as a person. To know what I am passionate about and to seek a way to make a career from that. Whatever my goals, I knew that I would most likely need a degree to venture into something new and lets just say, when I did graduate, I barely did. My grade 12 English was less than stellar and not because I didn’t know the language but because I had no interest in poetry, Shakespeare, or any of the other literature we had to study. Ironically since that time, I write poetry, short stories and enjoy the depths of Shakespeare. Who knew?? I knew I needed to pick up my grades to even get into a program, so off to school I went. 30 years later. Just as my youngest son graduated from high school, I went back.

I ventured off to a local college. It was no small campus by any means but it felt strange to step into a school where I was old enough to be the parent of most of my classmates. To do the upgrading meant I had to be in at least three classes. Aboriginal studies, Socials and of course English. Only now, I discovered there are numbers after the name of the course. English 30. When asked if I needed English 30, I had no idea what they were talking about. I needed English 12. As we worked out our translation issues, it turns out 30 was grade 12 English, so yes, I need that. Boy this was going to be tough. Was I ready? Did I really want to do this? I was 49 years old, how much time can I commit to this? Will I have enough working life left before I have to retire to even enjoy this? The questions swirled in my head, but I was committed to this journey.

Before I knew it, classes had begun but I was able to take the classes from home. I lived in a neighbouring city, so it’s not like I could walk to school. This was a new experience and I was only required to go to the school for exams. Taking classes in real time online allowed me to still be a part of the conversations, have my input but I could also sit back and just observe the interactions of the students and teachers. I do have to say that when you want to be in school, it so much easier to remained focused and engaged. I learned far more than I was expecting myself to and even when I was at odds with the teachers or other students, I grew as a person.

My socials class taught a different perspective on history than I remember. Some of the “facts” were very different from when I was in school. Don’t get me wrong, I love history. I enjoy autobiographies and I used to subscribe to a history magazine. I’ve been fascinated by the events of days gone by and wondered what it would have been like to live in those times, but what I was hearing in class was heavily leaning in one direction or another. I guess we all have our biases and what we want to focus on. My aboriginal class surprised me in two ways. Firstly, to hear of the history of the native people and how their interaction with those settling on their land. Second, much of the class was filled with aboriginal students who had no idea about their history. It was as much an eye opener for them as it was for me. Finally my English class. My biggest challenge. I was determined to be involved. I needed to succeed. I was stretched and pulled and taxed in my mental capacity. I didn’t come easy but I had many “aha” moments as I studied the source material. In the end, one of my favourite classes.

Before I started school, my wife would quiz me about English terminology. She asked me what a pronoun was and I jokingly said it was a noun that lost it’s amateur status and a semi colon was a big truck that carried colons. Honestly though, I was just giving her a hard time. I knew what some of those things were but I didn’t want to admit my ignorance. I’m thankful for the chance to return, meet some awesome people, see how much our education system has changed. I had plans to continue on, but this pandemic put a halt to all of that. I am happy to report that I received honours in all my classes. I may forget some of what I learned but I’ll never forget the people and I’ll never regret going back, even after 30 years.

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David Walker

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