by Andrea Noble, Online Course Support Assistant, Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning (CIEL)

studentA child’s fulltime “job” is to attend school. Because it is the main activity of life, a great deal of emphasis is placed here. Students are often labeled as “smart”, “dumb”, “popular” or another negative or positive adjective.

School is a place that involves learning, but also a main source of social interactions. Change is constant and each year, as children move to new classes with new teachers and continue to develop physically and mentally. School life is a large part of their identities.

As a young person, my self-identity was attached to marks. With intense pressure from parents, I took solace in achieving. I maintained straight-A’s throughout school and it was a great sense of pride. However, it was a great source of stress too. I remember adults telling me, “Enjoy it! This is the best time of your life.” I thought to myself, “This is the best time of my life? What are they talking about? I can’t wait to be an adult! That’s why I’m working so hard here.”

Now, I find myself fantasizing about school. It is partly due to memory obscuring and eliminating difficult moments, but as an adult, school becomes a choice. Learning is self-directed, so there is not as much pressure. Career and family become the main responsibilities of an adult’s life. He or she worries about money, children, health and juggles many mundane tasks and chores. Suddenly, school is viewed as a break. Adults typically choose the courses they take. With this “power”, learning becomes more interesting.

As well, another source of “power” is applying the knowledge in a practical way. As a child, one wonders whether or not the material is relevant.

Most adults will admit that with the exception of reading, writing and basic math, they do not remember many specifics from elementary school. Children are forced to study a wide range of material that may or may not be interesting to them. Teachers pretend that it is vital to study sharks, Japan or the Canadian Pacific Railway. Who decides what material is relevant? The ministry of education carefully constructs learning materials, but as children grow and evolve, they wonder… What is the point of all this?

As an adult, the point becomes clearer. Studying becomes more pleasurable. How exciting to learn about a topic for fun. How helpful to learn new skills that will enhance your career. Learning becomes tangible and real.

Plus, the pressure for high marks is off. As an adult, your spouse does not place a bumper sticker on the car that reads, “My wife is an honour roll student.”

In the workplace, nobody cares whether you received an A or a B on your test in last night’s class.

Education is liberating. School is more enjoyable because “student” is no longer your entire identity.