Surround Yourself With Greatness

 In Weekly Forum Discussion

I wander the aisles of school supplies, which are very prevalent at this time of year. I do not have any school age children to buy for, and even the majority of my grandchildren are either out of school or in some type of post-secondary education settings. However, I still love to see all of the fun supplies. I can hardly pass up the chance for a new package of coloured gel pens, fine tip markers, or even a huge box of pencil crayons.

These school supplies bring back fond memories of going to school. I love to learn and have for as long as I can remember. Going to back to school each September was a highlight for me. Of course I enjoyed some subjects more than others, especially in the older grades. I worked hard at my least favourite subjects like Math and Science to pass the classes with good enough grades to maintain an honor roll average. Reading, writing, and history could occupy my thoughts, imagination, and time better than anything else.

I still remember my first teacher, Miss McLaren. I remember her white hair and sensible shoes. I remember her no nonsense, obey the rules way of running her classroom. But most of all I remember how she believed we could learn much more than the grade one curriculum of the late 1950s expected of us. She encouraged us to work hard, helped us when we needed it, and opened a whole new world when she taught me how to read. I had always loved stories, but learning how to read changed my life. I did not have to wait for someone else to be available before I could enjoy a story.

A brand new package of crayons felt important, and after several years in school, a pack of newly sharpened pencil crayons and colouring maps added inspiration to the creativity I longed to express. By grade four the teachers assigned social studies projects. It meant looking up information in a book and drawing my own diagrams and maps, since it was long before the technology of today. I loved learning about places far away, the cultures and history of countries I found on the big map at the front of the classroom. I dreamed about visiting places I had only read about, whether as far away as Europe or Japan, or as close as British Columbia and the Maritimes. What wondrous possibilities education dangled in front of me.

I had other teachers that stand out because of how much they challenged me to be the best I could be. They taught beyond the curriculum for willing students, and I soaked up their teaching. I loved spending time in the library and devoured information from the World Book Encyclopedia set, the old-fashioned version of a Google search, which my parents bought by the time I had three years of school under my belt.

This love of learning has stayed with me. Reading, writing, and history still intrigue me. I can spend hours lost in another world, learning about new ideas, or being entertained by a well-written novel. It took me longer to delve back into writing when formal education ended with a Bachelor of Education. Life became busy. Other creative endeavors and reading filled the few hours I could carve from a busy schedule of work and family. In the last decade, life has allowed me to once again explore writing. But, each new thing I tried contributed to who I am today, and what I know how to do. Life offered its own unique education and learning environment, even the tough stuff.

Learning should never be relegated to going back to school, classroom settings or formal training courses. I believe we learn from every experience, from the people who intersect our lives and from our times of studying on our own. Learning constantly changes how life looks and should never stop. This week I reminisced about school days and favourite teachers. I loved this opportunity to realize how much I learned from teachers including research skills, good work ethics, and encouragement. But I continue to learn and enjoy it immensely.

During the last year I stretched myself out of my comfort zone at the urging of one of my granddaughters; together we attended a number of workshops on learning to write poetry. I needed to shift my thinking from, ‘I don’t write poetry!’ to ‘I’d love to make a memory and learn something new with you.’ Our local writer-in-residence proved to be knowledgeable and encouraging. I worked at this new venture and had my first poem published this month. I have much to learn with writing this genre, and plan to continue availing myself of future workshops.

Fifteen years ago I attended my first Toastmaster meeting with a friend. I had no plans to be involved in leadership, or to work towards my Distinguished Toastmaster as I did not think that fit with what I had planned or needed to learn. I wanted to improve my speaking skills and learn to control the nervousness I felt in speaking to adults or larger groups. Wow, what a journey of exploration and learning I have had. Controlling my fears, using my voice, and helping others along the way has allowed me to expand my horizons and meet many new people. I learned beyond the skills in the program because each person spoke about their own passion, and I had the chance to soak up knowledge. I continue to work on these skills of communication and leadership so I do not lose what I have learned, and I also teach others the value and importance of becoming good communicators.

In our modern world of technology and the ease of searching for information on any topic we desire, I believe that picking up a book, sharing with others in communities such as Consciously Woman, and taking the opportunity to attend workshops keeps me grounded with my learning. Community, whether online or in person, gives the added benefit of accountability and encouragement just like going back to school each fall as a child, teen and young adult gave me the structure and accountability to move forward in my learning journey. Surround yourself with others who know more than you do, and each person benefits.

This fall, I once again wandered the aisles of back to school supplies and remembered that learning continues. I could not resist and, to the amusement of my husband, I bought a new large package of gel pens. But oh the fun I will have by adding the colours of the rainbow to my journals or writing short stories in vibrant hues. Who knows what new adventure of learning awaits.

Written by: Carol Harrison; Carol’s Corner
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