Educationally Speaking, by Rob MacLellan
Improved self-worth, increased confidence are common outcomes
In past articles, I have spoken of the many good reasons for returning to school as an adult in order to complete your high school education. One can readily understand what seems to be the chief reason, that of earning a Nova Scotia High School Graduation Diploma.
A high school diploma serves as the entry qualification for many jobs. This clearly has great value and is reason enough for returning to school. However, there’s a deeply personal and therefore more important reason to re-engage in the educational system: doing so will make you feel better about yourself.
I’ve watched hundreds of adults return to school and I’ve noted that each one of them has undergone a personal transformation in the process of improving their education. Many adults may find this hard to believe, anchored as they are in their own experiences and life circumstances. I’ve frequently found that many of these newly minted adult high school graduates don’t even realize themselves how far they’ve travelled in their personal transformation.
Education broadens one’s worldview, as well as one’s knowledge and skills base. With each new course taken and with each new level of education achieved, the lens through which adults view the world gets wider. Interestingly enough, the broadening effect is more pronounced for those who are increasing their elementary and secondary levels of education. Worldviews broaden while engaged in post-secondary as well, but the odd thing is that the higher you go with your education, the less noticeable this effect. This is only one part of the transformation process.
The more important parts of this transformation are the personal changes that take place unlooked for within ourselves as we improve our education. These changes aren’t always self-evident, much as most people will not notice daily weight gains or losses, thinning hair and the acquisition of and/or deepening of wrinkles.
Most adults who have re-engaged in an educational program will gain greater self-confidence and an improved sense of self-worth. On a personal level, these gains are priceless. Much like an improved education, no one will ever be able to take this personal growth away from you.
It might be difficult to understand how this can happen and to accept this as an unassailable truth. A psychologist could probably explain these phenomena better and more in depth than I, but I’ll share a few of my thoughts.
Based on what we’ve experienced, what we’ve done, what we think of ourselves and what other people around us have told us they think about us, we come to have a sense of our self-worth and our place in the pecking order of life. We tend to seek affirmation from those around us, such as our family, our friends and our co-workers. These personal connections both support us and limit us at the same time.
When you make the decision to step outside of your comfort zone and return to school, you expose yourself to new ideas, new people and new ways of looking at the world. As an example, let’s say that up to this point in your life you haven’t been much interested in the news. You don’t watch the daily or nightly newscasts on TV and you never pick up a newspaper. As a result, your knowledge and understanding of local, national and international events and their potential impacts on your life are garnered only through chance comments you might overhear. A broader worldview isn’t part of your daily life.
Some aspect of your new school program will likely involve the study of current events. You’ll be required to contribute current event items for discussion, review and personal response. As you review the event you’ll be contributing, you’ll have thoughts about it, you may form an opinion about it and, since we have a tendency to want to be right about things, you’ll defend your opinion if challenged in class.
When first challenged in class, most people’s initial reaction is to back away, to avoid confrontation and to question their own position on the topic. As other voices contribute to the topic under discussion, you’ll experience the opinions of those who hold similar positions to yours and of those who hold opposing points of view. Not born yesterday, you’ll soon realize there’s a whole lot more to the topic under discussion than you had first thought. Unconsciously, you’ll begin to evaluate the opinions of others and to re-evaluate your own.
As each day in class goes by, where you are thrust into the crucible of educational discourse, you’ll feel more comfortable in speaking your thoughts aloud, in measuring your opinions against those of others in your class and in realizing what you have to say is just as important and just as relevant as what others have to say. This is an important outcome in your educational journey.
In the course of your studies, you’ll be required to acquire skills and knowledge in subjects you may have thought you weren’t good at, based on your early school experience. As an adult learning environment is very different compared to a public school learning environment, you’ll find — often surprisingly — that you’re actually beginning to learn. As your learning grows, your belief in yourself will grow based on your successes in your studies. Your new knowledge and skills will expand your appreciation and your understanding of the world around you.
By the time you walk across the stage to receive your high school diploma, you will feel a greater sense of self-worth and a greater confidence in yourself and your abilities. You’ll have undergone a significant personal transformation and gained a great education in the process.
Rob MacLellan is an advocate of adult education, an advocate of non-profit organizations and a resident of Alton. He can be reached at: phone 673-3269 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.