When I was in 2nd grade, Miss Nelson used to have us go around the classroom by rows, reading aloud. My desk was next to a row of bookshelves, and I would pull a way more interesting grown-up book from the shelves and hide it inside the classroom readers that featured the compelling stories of Dick, Jane, Sally (oh, that Sally!), Spot and Puff. While the rest of the class soldiered on through this exercise, I worked my way through the classroom’s library of subject matter. When the kid in front of me took his turn reading about Sally’s Bad Day, I’d quickly find the place in the story so I wouldn’t get caught doing my own freelance learning.
I’d internalized the delight of discovery early in my life. I was a voracious reader and nerd of the first degree, but was not highly motivated by grades and accomplishment. I would try…but was one of those kids who’d do little and take the B grade rather than work a bit to get the A. Now I realize I had my own agenda for learning, and it didn’t seem to include school.
Or did it?
I loved the atmosphere of college, because the responsibility of learning shifted to me. And even when I hit that first “What’ll I be when I grow up?” declare-a-major crossroads as I headed into my junior year and had to drop out, I kept reading and learning. My first published writing credits came during this time of my life, when I submitted some scripts for a locally-produced kids’ radio show and WBEZ-FM produced and aired them.
But I worked for two colleges, then walked with Bill through years of part-time college culminating in the completion of his Bachelor’s degree in 1990 and his Masters in 2007. All the while, I homeschooled our 3 kids, which gave me an opportunity to learn while my kids were learning. And after we moved back to IL, I found my way back to a staff position at a third college, my current employer.
I’ve been hanging around the edges of education my entire adult life. I want to be where the learning is happening, where I can have cool conversations with learners, and where I can feed that hungry little 2nd grade kid inside of me all the books she can handle.
In my new full-time job at the school, one of the perks is a free class a semester. One of the asterisks that came with the job offer was my promise that I’d finish my degree. I’d like the degree, though I’m not sure how much I’m going to love filling in a gap or two in my Gen Eds – like the math class I managed to avoid the first time around. And I’m deeply committed to continue my career as a writer. It’s hard to get jazzed about pounding out a term paper, though I certainly have the passion for research.
…there are doors in my life that have been closed to me because I lack the degree. There are other doors I’ve never tried to open because I knew I couldn’t without that piece of paper.
At age 49, I’m about to begin a new chapter in my learning journey that will pull me out of my orbit around a classroom and back into a desk chair. I can already hear Dick, Jane and Sally laughing! You know what? I’m laughing with them.
Welcome to my parable life!