It is back-to-school time where I live. I have been spending most of my time recently buying backpacks and pencils, getting my calendar updated with parent teacher conference dates and school sports schedules, and learning the new procedures and policies that are required to go to school during a global pandemic. It’s a very busy time. I like this time. I like the transition. I like the schedule change. It allows me to refocus on things that have been neglected through the wonderfully lazy days of summer. It allows my family to set a routine and schedule so that we can all thrive. It also allows all of us the opportunity to set goals. I love the opportunity I get the week before school begins to sit down with each of my kids, one on one, and write down their expectations and goals for the upcoming school year. It also gives me the opportunity to share with them my love for learning.
I have always wanted to be a lifelong learner. I constantly have several books on my nightstand ready to read. Most of them are what I consider “classics.” I love to read Shakespeare, Jane Austin, Charlotte Bronte, and Herman Mellville. I also love reading biographies and memoirs. I have come to love and learn from many amazing people. Mother Theresa, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Corrie Ten Boom, and Grace Hopper have become my mentors and teachers. They inspire me to learn and grow and question the world around me.
As I sit with each of my children I take the opportunity to teach them what I think education means. It absolutely means learning facts. Math, history, reading, writing, and science are all imperative to becoming a well-rounded adult with the ability to go out into a workforce and be an asset to the community and your family. But I think the most important meaning of education is developing the skill and knowledge to look beyond a standard or perspective to gain empathy, understanding, and ultimately give you the tools to help lift and help others. When a person is truly educated they have a deep understanding that they don’t know everything. They know that other’s experiences are unique and can teach and give new perspectives. In that definition we can really be lifelong learners. We can constantly grow, morphe, change our thinking, and then take action to change our circumstances and the circumstances in the world around us. If we are open to others’ ideas, thoughts, and experiences, we can gain love for those we may disagree with, learn to listen and communicate in a more constructive way, and find joy in serving those that are different than what we are used to. There would be less violence, abuse, and corruption. Education can change the world, but that education has to be more than facts and figures. As I send my kids back to school I remind them to look past the classroom and books, to open their minds and hearts to others’ ideas and life experiences, to talk to people they consider to be outside of their normal circle of friends. If they can do those things as well as pass their classes, then they will become truly educated.