Muskens: Overcoming negative vibes of returning to the classroom

In a perfect world we wouldn’t need adult upgrading courses. In a perfect world, everyone would graduate from high school.

In a perfect world we wouldn’t need adult upgrading courses.

Every person would know by the age of 10 what career they wanted and would complete the right courses in high school.

In a perfect world, everyone would graduate from high school.

But we don’t live in that world and even today many teenagers drop out of school.

When I was a high school student in the mid-1970s there were many students who seemed to disappear after Grade 10.

Where they ended up, I don’t know. I remember one girl in particular.

Louise was the smartest kid from kindergarten. She excelled in just about everything including, sports and music.

Every year she won all the academic awards. Teachers loved her.

But Louise had a turbulent family life and ran away from home a lot.

She returned a few times and I think she finally dropped out in Grade 11.

Other people that I know who dropped out had issues with school; they felt they were wasting their time.

These were rebellious teenagers trying to find their place during a decade when the optimism for change, which had characterized the late 1960s, was starting to wane.

Inflation was rampant, there was the energy crisis, Pierre Trudeau was our prime minister and everyone complained about disco music (but they all danced to it).

There is a good chance that some of these people who dropped out —including Louise—later found themselves wanting to go back to school. For people who drop out of high school, making that initial step to go back to school can be frightening.

There are many adults who had negative experiences at school. Going back can bring back a whole host of bad memories. Often, this can include the failure to learn, which made them feel stupid.

I can’t count the number of times I have met adults who feel they are incapable of going back to school yet they are very intelligent successful individuals.

They not only have good jobs but also are very successful in other parts of their lives, such as parenting (which can be one of the hardest challenges in life).

Through time they have lost their self-confidence to be successful in school, yet they have excelled in other areas.

Other experiences may also have turned them off school. When they were teenagers they might have expected more and tolerated less.

They were anxious to get on with their life, move away from their parents, and teachers and learning just didn’t fit at the time.

Their perception of the classroom and learning may not be positive, yet if they were to sit with a group of adults in a college learning environment I think they would be quite surprised by how comfortable they would feel.

Chances are Louise, and many of those people I know who dropped out, never did return to school.

Studies have shown that what stops most adults from going back to school is more psychological than it is financial.

Many are scared to make that first step.

If you see yourself in this column take a minute and ask yourself what is it about education and learning that really intimidates you.

Jane Muskens is the registrar at Okanagan College.

 

jmuskens@okanagan.bc.ca