Why I Love Being a Student
This is the time of year I used to love when I was growing up. Thomas A. Edison Elementary School would post students’ names on the classroom doors, and we’d all ride our Schwinns down there to see who our teacher would be. It marked the beginning of a year in which we would learn to read, and write, and think, and do things that last year seemed impossible.
I love being a student. If it weren’t for homework and tests, I’d probably go to school forever. It’s what makes non-credit adult learning programs so great—just learning and thinking and talking about ideas. I am also relatively sure that my attraction to being a student is why I went into education as a career. When I think about people committing themselves to learning something new—and others helping them do that—it makes me feel like everything is right with the world.
My love for being a student is very clear to me as I move in new directions at this point in my life. The things I’m drawn to are almost all related to acquiring a new skill.
At the time I graduated from high school and most of my friends were heading off to college, my parents were struggling financially. I was totally uninformed and unfocused about scholarships and everything else it would have required for me to go away to school, so I didn’t get to live that fantasy. But for me it remained part of my dream about being a student. I visited friends who were living in the dorms in other cities and states, racing across leafy campuses to their next classes, spending long hours in the library, and discovering life beyond home. To me, that was heaven.
I did receive a great education, though, at American River College and later at Sac State, for both undergrad and graduate school. I learned to see the world from a much broader view, I met lots of good friends, and I got to work with professors who saw something in me and helped me find my path—all the best parts of being a student. And then I was lucky enough to teach for many years before I went into administration. As tired as I got of grading papers, I loved working with students who were trying to figure out their direction. There isn’t a better feeling in the world than noticing something in a student that they haven’t quite recognized themselves and then watching them develop it.
I’m sure this love of school is what influenced me to get a second master’s degree the year after I retired for the first time. It was a two-year, low-residency, non-fiction writing program that I swear was made for me. Everything about it was what I needed—including getting to live in the dorms for a week or so twice a year. I met people who have become some of my favorite humans on earth, I went to a much deeper level with my writing, and I got to listen to brilliant teachers read their own work and help me with mine. If I could have kept doing it for several more years, I would have.
My love for being a student is very clear to me as I move in new directions at this point in my life. The things I’m drawn to are almost all related to acquiring a new skill. Whether it’s learning to meditate, to make sourdough bread, or to just continue to work on my writing, I feel grounded when I’m learning. I feel like I’m discovering more of what there is to know in the world and trying my hand at it a little bit at a time. Teaching and learning seem like the basics of a rich life to me. They are our chance to share what we know, to take in something new, and to understand how we all think. It’s like human beings without all the machinations of modern life. Being a student gives me a feeling of challenge, accomplishment and agency, whether it is formal learning or not. I want to always remember that, whatever side of the desk I’m on. It’s my chance to grow in the most basic way imaginable.