Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Readin', Ritin', and Rithmetic

I don't have very many vivid memories of my life when I was a kindergartner.  I remember a handful of friends' birthday parties.  And I remember a set of inflatable red monsters that my teacher, Mrs. Sue, hung above the board and used to teach us the alphabet, but I don't actually remember learning the alphabet.  I couldn't even tell you where in the building (which was demolished when I was in 2nd grade) my first classroom was located. 

I vividly remember a time when I told Mrs. Sue that I was a car-rider one particular day because Dad was taking me fishing.  I normally rode the bus home (good old #50), but I told her Dad was picking me up that day.  Mrs. Sue sat with me on the steps outside the classroom as, one-by-one, all the kids left.  "Are you sure you weren't supposed to ride the bus?" She asked, multiple times.  "No...Dad is coming to get me.  He's probably getting the tackle box ready," I insisted.  Eventually, the bus driver was called, and she came and took me home on an empty bus, which is where I was supposed to be the entire time.  I don't recall if Dad and I went fishing that afternoon or not.

It doesn't really feel like it was all that long ago, but it definitely sounds like it.  Twenty-three years.  But when you do the math, it doesn't really sound all that daunting.  Roughly 18,000 hours.  About 770 days.  A little over 2 years.  That's how much time (estimated, of course) I've spent in a school of one kind or another as a student.  Growing up, it feels like we spend more time at school than we do anywhere else, but if you were to create a pie chart of my life divided by hours, I've actually only spent about 8% of my time on earth in school.

This week marks the end of my standard education.  I'll take my Praxis exam next week and will have my Rank-I certification in Special Education.  It makes me sound really important.  It makes me seem extremely learned (pronounced learn-ed, like in 18th century England).  The truth is, I've probably forgotten more than I care to admit, and just because I have a couple of degrees framed on my wall, I don't feel like I should have a particular label or status applied to me.  It really just means I've spent entirely too much of my parents' money.

School was never all that difficult for me.  I don't say that to brag...It's really just a fact.  Truth be told, no matter what grade I was in, I never really pushed myself all that much.  I always did all my homework, and I was well-behaved for the most part.  But I coasted.  I did enough to get by with good enough grades that my parents stayed off my back.  They got plenty upset when I got as low as a B, but if I had really put forth effort, I could have easily finished with straight A's from 1st grade all the way til now.  Lensey was always a better student than I was, but she will tell you she had to work a lot harder than I did to be successful.  And she reminds me of that frequently.

That sentiment reminds me of something Liza told me a couple of years ago.  When I was in graduate school at UK, Dr. Kathy Swan, the director of the MIC program in which I was enrolled, never really liked me.  And it was obvious.  She called me out constantly for not shaving everyday, told me I needed to dress more professionally (for class, mind you), and was much harder on my written assignments than some of my classmates.  Don't get me wrong, I was a bit of a cut-up in class at times, but when it came time to be serious, I was.  I just tried to lighten the mood sometimes, and I guess she didn't care for that.  I returned from my first interview, and when she asked how it went, I said "It went well.  The principal said I was the best-dressed interviewee they had."  It was just my subtle way of flipping her the bird, which I'm fairly certain she understood.

But anyway, Liza was my academic adviser at the time, and worked closely with Dr. Swan.  So, when Adrienne and I started dating, I asked Liza if Dr. Swan didn't like me.  She absolutely confirmed its truth, and when I asked why, she said "Dr. Swan just thought things came too easily for you."  Perhaps it was my own fault for not carrying myself a certain way all the time, but regardless...A very silly reason to dislike one of your students.  It never really bothered me that Dr. Swan didn't like me, though.  It was plenty clear she had her favorites, and quite frankly, I'm glad I didn't belong to that group.  But, hearing that from Liza sums up my education pretty well.  I was always successful, but I could have done a lot more.

Do I have regrets in that regard?  Not exactly...I have way too many great memories of times with friends or doing things that I enjoyed to sit around and worry about an exam I took 5 years ago.  Sure, I look back and know I could have studied harder and made a better grade here or there, but as I sit here now, I'm totally convinced it would have had little impact on the way my life has turned out.  And I wouldn't trade the memories I made for anything...So, no...I don't regret it.

To me, education was always more than just learning facts, or training for a career...It was training for life.  It was learning about myself.  How I deal with adversity.  How I interact with other people.  How I prioritize my life.  How I set goals and prepare to meet those goals.  As much as I'm sure I learned in a classroom, I feel like the experience of an education taught me even more.

I will miss certain aspects of being a student, even though my most recent experience at the University of the Cumberlands has been totally different than anything else I've ever been involved in.  But, even though my official education is over, it has instilled a love of learning in me that I can always continue to feed as I go through life.  Education is on-going and something we should all take seriously.  I might not have always taken my "schooling" as serious as I could or should have, I definitely took my education seriously.  While the degrees hanging on the wall tell me I'm specifically trained to be a teacher, I don't always have to teach.  I might.  I might not.  That isn't the point.  The point is, I have been extremely fortunate to be able to get a good education, and having that experience has taught me more than any textbook or lecture ever could.