Going to School Forever

14

January 28, 2019 by Jean

Certificate Image_01During my college teaching career, I sometimes joked to students that college professors were people who were better at going to school than at anything else, so they decided to go to school forever. Now that I’ve retired from being a college professor, I keep finding new ways to go to school.

In my first year of retirement, I signed up for my first course at the Senior College (a lifelong learning program for those over fifty). By my second year of retirement, I was teaching as well as taking courses there and I was also enrolled in the Master Gardener Volunteer certification course (a semester-long college-level horticulture course). That year I also discovered the course offerings at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens and enrolled in their Certificate program in Native Plants and Ecological Horticulture. By this past fall, I had completed the fourteen courses for the certificate program, and last week I received my Certificate at a graduation celebration attended by graduates and faculty from the program. Recently, I found myself online checking out the one-year intensive course for the Maine Master Naturalist program.

Going to school at this stage of life is more fun than it was when I was younger. Although I always enjoyed school, my student years included anxieties about failing, and teaching involved long work hours and responsibilities like creating exams and grading papers that I did not enjoy. The volunteer teaching I have been doing at the Senior College includes the fun parts of teaching without the unpleasant parts. Being a student is also more fun now because I feel more free to take risks and move outside my comfort zone. When I was young, I learned the cultural message that girls weren’t good at math and science and became convinced that I had no aptitude for these subjects, with the result that I took only the minimum required courses in math and science in high school and college. My graduate school training in sociology and more than three decades teaching research methods and social science computer applications to college students pushed me past my math anxiety. In retirement, I’ve been overcoming my science phobia, studying the science of horticulture and ecology and taking courses in physics and microbiology at the Senior College.

A growing body of research suggests that the habit of lifelong learning is associated with health and well-being in later life. Going to school is only one of many forms lifelong learning can take. Other forms – reading, writing, music, doing puzzles, attending lectures, belonging to a book club, educational travel – can also provide the benefits of cognitive stimulation that keep the brain sharp as we age. Of the many forms of lifelong learning I engage in, going to school is the one I find most exhilarating. Like other forms of lifelong learning that involve interaction with others, taking and teaching classes provide the additional benefit of social engagement, which is itself a predictor of healthy aging. For someone like me who lives alone, interactive forms of lifelong learning are particularly important as a hedge against social isolation.  My hope is to just keep going to school forever!

14 thoughts on “Going to School Forever

  1. Sue McPhee says:

    Amen. Me too. 🙂
    (Physics, eh? We’ll have to talk.)

  2. Diana Studer says:

    The classes you teach now must be fully booked!

    • Jean says:

      Not quite. I limit the classes to twenty to allow for plenty of discussion and usually end up with 12-17. The topics I teach aren’t the most popular, but the course evaluations are always very positive.

  3. Jean R. says:

    Teachers who love their work make learning infectious. I bet you were an awesome professor and still are with teaching in the 55+ community. With the OLLI classes I’ve taken they were definitively more fun without the tests and grades.

  4. Dr Sock says:

    I have just signed up for my first Elder College class. It is an 8-week literature course on the works of Austen and Woolf.

    Jude

    • Jean says:

      Jude, It sounds fascinating. I’d love to take it and to see how it connects these two authors. I have read all of Jane Austen’s novels multiple times, and I have never managed to get to the end of any of Virginia Woolf’s.

  5. Honey Bee says:

    We have Hot Docs, a theatre that shows documentaries exclusively. Several times a year they run six week courses by live professors, who use the venue’s great facilities to show video clips and illustrations of their talks. Called Curious Minds. Most of us who attend are seniors. One of our favourite professors was giving a course on Italy starting in January. I went downtown early to purchase my tickets and found it was sold out!!!

    So this week I am taking online classes in Women’s Heart Health ( I have Congestive Heart Failure) given by medical doctors and other health care professionals. There are five presentations each day for seven days. I have time for only two classes per day.

    But, like you, I cannot stop learning. Health is a major area of reading right now and that segues neatly into nutrition and fitness and emotional intelligence and spiritual well-being. So the areas of study just keep opening up as I go.

    And I’d also like to learn about the literature and poetry of the Romantic period and the Renaissance . . . and . . . and . . .

    I was a teacher, too. And my students loved to learn.

    • Jean says:

      Honey Bee, “Curious Minds” is such a great name for a lifelong learning program. Like you, I find that learning about one thing leads to other topics and interests as the subjects of my curious mind continue to expand.

  6. bionicOldGuy says:

    Great post. I’m a firm believer in lifelong learning. In addition to examples mentioned, there are a ton of quality online learning places now. I brush up on my rusty french and am teaching myself spanish with duolingo. I’m an old-school computer programmer and now I’m going to keep it fresh by learning programming for mobile devices. The possibilities are endless

    • Jean says:

      Thanks for the comment. I hadn’t thought about taking courses online; it’s a great idea! (I could do with some brushing up on my own rusty French!)

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I am Jean Potuchek, a professional sociologist who has just stepped into the next phase of my life, retirement, after more than thirty years of college teaching. This blog is about my experience of that new phase of life.

Please join me as I step into my future.

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