School is back. Vehicles will slow their pace to a cautious 30 kilometres per hour as cheerful, roaming herds of young people bounce around, with new notebooks and backpacks, in this annual ritual of a return to learning.
Energetically, there is positive movement and a level of excitement in the air. Early September and a new school year feels full of potential like many seeds planted in rich soil just about to germinate. It’s full of possibility.
However, time really must romanticize a lot of past memories. To be truthful, most of the time, for me, school was like trying to smash a square peg into a round hole with a sledgehammer, year after year. Everything always felt fragmented and difficult.
Back then, red faced, apoplectic teachers would exile students out of classrooms for behaviour that, these days, might be recognized as symptoms of learning disabilities or social barriers.
But that was the 1970s. Smoking was allowed on airplanes and an often heard phrase at social gatherings was, “have a drink for the road!”
Thankfully, society has progressed in a variety of ways since those days of avocado-green appliances and thick yellow shag carpets. However, it’s always true that school systems and institutions, in general, can be unkind to people who don’t quite colour between the lines or, socially, fit in.
As a society, it’s important to always reach a hand out to those who feel disenfranchised or bullied. That sentiment should be at our collective core, especially in these divisive times.
That being said, on a positive note, I don’t think school is ever really out. Every day brings new lessons and new teachers, whether you’re seven, 97 or, like me, somewhere in-between.
With the help of practices such as meditation and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), mindfulness can be cultivated and, from that place, an emotional and spiritual environment is created that makes lifelong learning possible. Life from this open perspective can make even casual events feel stimulating and energizing.
With the accelerated digital age, independent learning can feel like snowboarding or skiing on an avalanche of information. Thankfully, places exist to help navigate the cluttered landscape of resources around independent learning.
In our town, Career Link is a great starting place on the path for work-related skills, knowledge and learning, at any age.
Lately, “What doesn’t kill you might make you stronger” is a much tossed around aphorism meaning we grow from all experiences, good and bad. However, just as importantly, learning from experience can make you smarter as well, and in the information age, an openness to lifelong learning is an advantage we all can benefit from.
Robert Skender is a Powell River freelance writer and health commentator.