Looking back, and some things I learned by being a nontraditional student (revised and corrected)

#1: I learned that my attitude mattered... (version 2)

Okay. I'll admit it. At first when I went back to school, my attitude was that of "Uh-oh. Will I fit in? Will this work out for me? Am I making the wrong choices in what I am taking?"

The last question was the biggest one I had. Was I making a wrong choice? Like many nontraditional students, I had more than one choice in what I could take in school. I did know one thing: I didn't want to take 4 more years of school and not have much (at least on paper) to show for it.

My decision had been whether to concentrate on my English skills OR go for Art education instead. Once I made up my mind, I went for it.

But I can imagine that waffling longer... maybe taking one class at a time, taking both interests at the same time, and always worrying about my decision would have bogged me down, and taken time away from where it belonged: on my studies.

As it turned out, deciding once and for all about this question was a good decision for me. If I had not, I would have had to take MUCH longer to find out what teaching could really be like (at least, at the school I taught at, which I think was a pretty typical school).

Another good benefit of having a plan was that I did not have to re-take any classes or drop any. This is a very good thing, and saved me a lot of money. Plus, I found out some important lessons. The most important lesson I learned was that you just have to TRY something sometimes and find out if you like it.

#2 Some other things I learned by being a nontraditional student...

A. All the positive attitude, smiles, and good intentions in the world won't help you if you don't jump in with both feet and actually TRY something. Once I decided to go for more education, and actually signed up and did my FAFSA, everything else just started to fall in place.

B. Deciding what I was going to do with my second chance at another type of job was up to me, but I was NOT locked into that choice, as I learned later on. I learned that I could branch out into something else after I earned my certification.

Learning a new skill helped me in my personal life - - I was able to speak better in front of lots of people, make presentations, and do research faster. I was able to finish projects in a timely way. Now I can divide projects and my writing up into smaller sections and delegate my time.

C. Going back to school was not only a chance for me to learn something academic, but was a chance to learn something about MYSELF. I found out that I could overcome some big challenges, and I was not a quitter. (I pretty much knew this already, but I confirmed it.) I also learned that if I tried my best, sometimes that was more than enough.

D. When I was in school, I needed to pull out all the stops in order to do well and get good grades. Learning what I needed to learn did not come easy. It was a lot of hard work. That meant studying as much as possible, never missing class, and connecting with other students. But you know what? All the hard work was really worth it, and helped build up my self-esteem.

E. Graduating or finishing my classes did NOT mean that I was stuck in a rut or couldn't change my mind later. It turned out I DID change my mind later, and that was OK.

I know that I can always go back to school again as a nontraditional student for something entirely different, OR I can learn another subject in school or by myself. The sky is indeed the limit now, because I proved to myself that I could knuckle down and succeed at learning something I wanted to learn, and my age didn't matter.

F. I learned that my success isn't always what other people tell me it is. My personal success and how I feel about myself is up to me.

I learned that what other people tell me is the "truth" is not always all of what is really going on in a situation. (Duh!) I learned that it is not enough to just have an opinion or look at things from "my" point of view. I learned that looking at others' points of view can be refreshing, even if those people do not agree with me, and/or have their own agendas.

I learned a lot about really looking around and evaluating things. This is a life skill that is really important.

Because I went back to school, I learned a lot about teaching, a lot about people, and a lot about lessons and life - - because when I tried teaching for the very first time, I learned so much. The biggest lesson of all was learning that it is OK to make a mistake. Everyone does it. In fact, it is human to make a mistake. I am the kind of person who used to go over and over the causes of every mistake when it happened.

I have changed. I no longer do this. Nowadays I stop when I have pretty much understood it, and focus a lot more on the learning I have because of each one. Going back to school has changed me as a person and changed the way I think in a very basic and healthy way.

Are you going back to school right now? What are some things you are concerned about OR what have you learned so far? Share your thoughts below as a comment.


E. Sheppard