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.
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.
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!
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?
''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.............''