Back to School

Are any of us adults going back to school this year? Perhaps further education? To learn a new skill or just to do something fun? I'm a massive fan of adult education, people have quipped that I should get commission because I'm always banging on about it. In fact if you've followed my blog for a while you'll probably have seen me touch on this subject before, but here's my full story! Are you sitting comfortably? I didn't go to university, I started a family quite young, not planned. I wasn't the stereotypical teenage mum and by that I mean the kind described by some of the UK press etc. Everyone was shocked, just months before getting pregnant, I'd been asked to stay behind in class, thinking I'd done something wrong, but in fact the teacher had pulled me aside to talk to me about my career aspirations and I mentioned amongst several things, teaching something like English or history, but combining it with something creative like photography or drama.

This was a teacher who was quite fearsome, very strict and disliked by many. You sat in her class and you worked not socialised, but whilst she always scared me a bit, which wasn't difficult as I wasn't one of those kids who would back chat teachers, even though there were a few that I wish I had, because as an adult I can see they had no care for us kids or their subject, I always really liked her. Behind that strict manner, I always felt that she did care about her subject and was in fact quite passionate about it. Her kindness was proved during that chat after class I suppose. Her manner changed once we were alone and she smiled! She was warm, friendly and was pleased at my plans, she encouraged  me on and gave me confidence that I could make that happen if I wanted it to. Even though I didn't go on to be a teacher, as we spoke about, that conversation has stayed with me all these years. She may have been strict but I still think she rocked.

If all this makes you think I may have loved school. I didn't. I loved the reading, learning, exploring new ideas, well some of them. Whilst I consider myself to be creative in many ways, I never really got design technology, I remember a teacher became quite exasperated at my inability to use a ruler and a paper full of squares to draw an accurate 3D shape! Science and maths were also not my thing, however give me English, history, drama and art and I was in my comfort zone. These were my favourite subjects for most of my time in high school. Of course that was teacher dependant. It's a shame some teachers don't seem to have an awareness of how much they can make or break the love for a subject....and a love for school.

The other thing that hung over me like a cloud in those school years was some of the students. The feeling that the next corner you walked round might be someone who'll taunt you or worse, preoccupies your head and your heart. That awful moment where you've clocked someone who you know will take pleasure in making you feel like shit. I got quite good a spotting them from a distance because I developed the ability to scan the area for the people I'd rather just avoid if possible. I was recently told by someone I went to school with but didn't really know, that I was seen by some as quite grown up at school, not just because I looked mature but I was quite 'sophisticated'. Isn't perception a funny thing?! Not always funny as in haha though. I once saw my name written on the back of a seat on a bus, written in nail varnish was my name followed by the words 'is a bitch'. I'd had a great day out up until this point, this dramatically spoilt my mood as you can imagine. I'd love to now write a message to the person who did that  (who ever they are) .... but it would be too obscene to write on here and also my energy is probably best used on more positive things! It mattered back then though. A lot.

So my late teens panned out differently from the way everyone thought they would. There was just never the time to go and do the university thing, ironic really considering I had one twenty minutes up the road. So when I say there wasn't the time, I really mean I didn't prioritise the time I guess. I was busy being a working mum and dealing with all the crazy juggling of life that combination brings! I still haven't gone back to do the Uni thing by the way, but I haven't ruled it out though. Would I have been happier if I had done it all at eighteen? The honest answer is I really don't know. I know several people that had a terrible time at Uni, it was as life changing for them as having a baby at that age. Not always in a good way. Planning your future at any age can be tricky can't it?!

I did a very short Open University course just as a taster and whilst I enjoyed it, I like a classroom, I like the structure that a classroom brings so decided that the OU wouldn't be for me. But I'm glad I tested the water because if you don't dip your toes in, you just don't know do you? Just over ten years ago there were lots of adult education courses available in a huge range of subjects that could lead to qualifications or just be for done just for recreational purposes. I looked through those brochures for a few years, each time using a pen to make a mark next to the ones that were possibilities. I finally got round to signing up for something in 2003 (it doesn't feel that long ago!) My first encounter with adult education was a photography course. Why photography? Firstly it had always interested me, secondly I felt like I was ready to do something creative and thirdly at school I'd mentioned I'd like to do photography for my work experience and got talked out of it. Subsequently I ended up doing my work experience in a primary school!

I was very nervous at going back to learning as an adult. Even though it was an evening class and not a full time course, it was still a big deal for me. Weirder was the fact it was in my old high school! So there were a lot of mixed emotions walking through those doors as you can imagine. But it was without doubt one of the best things I ever took a leap of faith to do. I loved the classes, money was tight, my camera was paid for in instalments,  my equipment slowly built up thanks to Ebay. My entire darkroom was built up piece by piece from people that had either given up photography or had passed way! A darkroom you may say? Yes, this was back in the day when digital was all quite new. Developing film was (and still is) always a hairy moment, do it wrong and you say goodbye to some, if not all of those pictures. Do it right and the moment when you watch that piece of paper come to life in it's chemical bath is an amazing feeling! Of course it can also be disappointing too - digital photography allows for less moments where you want to kick yourself because you haven't quite captured what you hoped! That course was a lot of work, but I got so much out of it. The three distinctions was also a good feeling too!

Since then I've gone on to qualify as a hairdresser and a make-up artist. I recently did a short course on digital photography just for fun really. I hadn't done a course for a while and I thought it would be a good way to do something interesting. So now I'm following that up with another photography course, so fingers crossed I'll have another qualification under my belt this time next year. It's similar to the one I did almost ten years ago but this one focuses on digital and photoshop. Exciting! Some people seem to think that you should only learn something that they would consider 'useful'. Something that will lead to a higher paying job for example. However the great thing about learning as an adult is that it's your choice what class you go to and what subject you want to learn, so yes you can do something just for the hell of it if you really want to. Even if it's a degree that will never be useful for your career, if you can afford to learn about subjects that interest you, why not? When is learning, reading and personally developing yourself ever going to be a waste of time?

 As children we're not always fortunate enough to learn something that interests us or we'll find fun. As adults we can take more control of that. Due to budget cuts in adult education the choice of courses is not as vast as it was ten years ago, but thankfully there's still many available to explore. The cost of doing a degree is also now huge, but maybe The Open University would work for you? If you want to learn to sew, draw, cook something new, go back to further/higher education or even retake your maths GCSE why not? Isn't just learning something new or achieving something you never thought you could, one of the most 'useful' things you can do for yourself?

So good luck to all of you starting or continuing courses this year. If you haven't signed up for something it may not be too late, short courses often start at various points in the year. Contact your local college and google adult education for your area. You can usually spread the cost of courses too. This has turned out to be quite a long, wordy blog post which wasn't the plan at all! So now I shall leave you with some words taken from my 'About Me' page...

''I absolutely believe you're never too old to try or learn something new, but if you wait for 'the right' time, you could have a long wait.............''



  1. Good luck in your new course! Sounds good. Are you going to invest in Photoshop?

    I think it's often the time that puts people off Adult Education as well as the money. It's awfully time consuming and at the end of the day it's a luxury so other things end up coming first.

    There are any number of courses I've had in the back of my head for years I'd like to do to improve my skills, but if I did then something else I've worked really hard on would have to give, and I just don't have the time to devote to it. Which is a shame, but I can't see it changing anytime soon!

  2. I completely agree that there is hardly ever the right time to do something, I guess if we we waited for that time it may never come. Really liked this post and it's good that you are such an ambassador of adult education and the continuation of the learning journey. Good luck with your course. You're very inspirational. I hope you know that! :)

  3. I didn't comment yesterday when I read this as I did as you suggested and hit google to search! It was a nice suprise to know that there's some great things out there that don't cost as much as I thought. Yes it will be a juggle with time, but that's life! My life anway!!!! Thanks for the tip about spreading the course cost too.even though the courses I'm looking at are only just over £100 (I know that's still a lot, but compared to a degree...)I can still split it in to instalments. So now all I have do decide is which one I want to do first. Thanks Missy! leah

  4. So pleased to hear that someone has had similar experiences to me re education :) Great post x

  5. So true Missy Vintage, I love learning - having my children has made this even more apparent. I'm currently learning all about dinosaurs with my little boy, completely useless but I am enjoying it so much and he is too, reeling off names like parasaurolophus when he can barely pronounce his own! Starting Clothes Box has been a steep learning curve too, if you need any help in photoshop, I'm getting a bit of a whizz now :)

  6. This is great.
    I went straight from high school and got myself a degree. I don't currently work in that field as I discovered is wasn't for me. I do use some of the skills though.
    One of my favourite things to do at the moment is short courses. I began with hoola hooping and the like to get fit after a car accident that injured my back and now I've done a whole range of things. I'm learning to sew and am waiting for a hat making course to start up again.
    Nothing better than trying out new things. Who knows if itll take your career in a new direction or will just be a fun hobby. I'm considering going back to uni once I decide what I'm passionate about.


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