Get into the back-to-school atmosphere and learn something new

COLUMN: A time of change and new beginnings

September, for me, has always been a time of change; a time of learning.

Whether grabbing my lunch off the counter, stuffing a duffel for university, or packing my child’s backpack for her first day of school, it is a different bag, but always representing a new beginning, a new opportunity.

I have always liked September, and get truly excited with its approach. Growing up, I liked the new back-to-school clothes (that I could be sure would not be my sister’s hand-me-downs). I looked forward to meeting new teachers and mentors, to reacquainting my-self with old friends and making new ones, to seeing where this year would lead.

Perhaps my love of education spurs my love of big yellow school buses (though I wish they had seat belts). I particularly love the sight of a smiling school bus driver, who shares my joy for the bright futures awaiting the precious cargo.

My daughter now also eagerly awaits meeting her new classmates and teacher, and I am happy for her. I want her to love education as much as I do. I want her to know that the outcomes, like jobs and grades, are fine, but learning is the key. More importantly, education is not simply school.

Education is in travelling, learning new languages, experiencing new things, and living deeply.

Yes, education is travelling– not simply to all-inclusive resorts. It is about taking in foreign destinations, drinking in their culture, eating their foods, learning their history, seeing their sights, walking their streets. It is about going halfway around the world to learn about something so much closer to home. It is learning about ourselves.

Education is learning new languages–of not being afraid to pronounce a foreign word incorrectly– of putting our pride aside to show that people are important to us by using their words or dialect. Sometimes, the language we should learn does not require a new accent or vocabulary, only a new understanding of the speakers. We can educate ourselves by learning to speak the language of a loved one, a parent, friend, or child, who has become estranged, as we remember that gay once meant happy, that sick now means cool, and perhaps sorry doesn’t exist in everyone’s vernacular.

Education is new experiences: eating new (and sometimes) unappealing foods; learning to cook with new spices and ingredients; listening to a new kind of music live; conquering an old fear; volunteering for a good cause; or trying a new sport. To be truly alive we must continue to move our bodies in novel ways; expand our minds with new ideas and knowledge; and open up our spirits to all the beauty that surrounds us.

Yes, education is living–really living. It is taking chances, reaping rewards and learning from mistakes. It is engaging the world around us and letting the world be acquainted with us. It is critically thinking about what we are being told and sold (which is often one and the same). It is giving without expecting, and graciously excepting what is given to us.

I revel in new educational opportunities, new ways to stretch my mind, spirit and my body. So September for me is a magical time when my feet get itchy to travel, my brain is eager to learn, and my heart is open to new experiences.

There is even something magical or lucky in the month’s name, if you believe the number 7 is lucky. September’s root is the Latin word for seven, as it was the seventh month in the Roman calendar for many years.

Fittingly, the gemstone for September is the sapphire, whose meaning is related to clear thinking, or open-mindedness, and is sometimes called the stone of destiny; all perfect meanings for a time associated with new educational endeavours.

The flower of September is the forget-me-not, which may refer to not forgetting to pick up school supplies, or reminding those of us out of school to not stop learning.

This week, why not consider buying yourself a back-to-school outfit and get engaged in the new beginnings September can offer?

Pick up a continuing education calendar from Sault College, or look into courses through the second career program. See what courses tickle your fancy at Algoma University (but do it fast as classes are just starting).

Book a trip directly from Sault Ste. Marie to a Spanishspeaking destination and learn some of the language first.

Find a cooking class at Rome’s.

Buy tickets to the Algoma Fall Festival.

Sign up for a pilates or cross-fit class or find a new outdoor adventure experience.

Don’t wait until the new year to make an investment in you. September is a great time for change, and for learning. And don’t forget to smile and wave at the children on the school buses.

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