Lighting the Fires

My husband Dave is currently a full-time employee and also a part-time college student. At the age of 40, he decided he was finally ready to go back to school and three years later, we are still on that path.

It isn’t an easy balance. But it is inevitably interesting. This semester, Dave needed to take an English class for the degree program he is in, and he has connected with a teacher who really appreciates his thoughts and his writing style. She has commented a number of times to him that she has “no real worries” about him and “looks forward to reading what he has written.”

It made me think about how it would be to teach classes in a local community college. I have fond memories of those years – I loved the learning aspect of it, but at the same time I was disappointed that the class wasn’t filled with people as enthusiastic as I about the material.

It was as if all they cared about was the degree, or putting yet another gen ed class behind them and moving on, without ever enjoying the process of learning and discussing new ideas.

Perhaps it falls to the question of what college is for – the degree? Or the learning?

What it did make me realize was that I am in the perfect place – right here – right now. If you head over to The Deadly Nightshade you will get a glimpse of some of the classes I teach. I think the last count was around 20 different classes. All community education classes – all compact, one or two-hour classes, that deliver a lot of information in a short amount of time.

But that’s not why I like teaching them so much.

I like teaching these classes because everyone is there to learn about [fill in the blank] subject. They aren’t there because they have to be. They aren’t there because it is some gen ed requirement in order for them to get their degree – they are there to learn for the sake of learning itself.

And I can’t help thinking that our education system would be so much more effective (and interesting) if they followed this model.

Imagine it for a moment – the teacher and the students – both there 100% willingly, interested in what was being taught, interested in filling their heads with the particular knowledge being presented that night.

So I’m writing this post for two reasons. Can you guess what they are?

#1 – I want to encourage you to seek out community education classes in your area.

Here in Kansas City, there are a wealth of sites and locations. I only know or frequent only a few of them, but they include:

  • Missouri Department of Conservation – locations like Burr Oak Woods, Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center and more.
  • Mid-Continent Public Library – chock full of activities and learning events for children, teens and adults
  • Communiversity – a department run out of UMKC – they put out at least three different class schedules throughout the year on everything from Arts and Crafts to Spiritual classes.
  • MCCKC – the local community colleges on the Missouri side has College for Kids and also plenty of community education classes to learn from
  • JCCC – the community college on the Kansas side of things – I took a great beekeeping class from them once

Which ones have I missed? Probably a great deal! Let me know if there is another I should add by posting a comment.

And now for my second reason.

#2 – Everyone knows something, so why are you not teaching what you know?

I’m teaching a Back to Basics class for some other moms in our L.E.A.R.N. group on Wednesdays. So far, at week 3, I feel like I’ve been learning just as much from them as they learn from me. One mom in particular is fascinating. She makes kefir water soda for her kids, and knits these gorgeous sweaters from yarn she spun herself.

I think I can handle learning how to make kefir, but I fear that the knitting may be a lost cause. Watching her makes me yearn to try and learn again…for the fourth or fifth time in my life.

My point is this – you don’t have to be a “Master of All Things [fill in the blank]” to teach a class – just a willingness to share your knowledge and enthusiasm. How many of us do this on a daily basis naturally, in a one-on-one basis? Why not do it for more people at one sitting?

Ken Robinson speaks of a need for a revolution in education. And I believe I have the answer to that. What if every single one of us decided to share our knowledge with a group of people? What kind of classes and learning opportunities would be out there?

  • How to make kefir soda and yogurts
  • How to knit your own stunning sweater in two weeks or less
  • How to raise chickens or bees (obviously I already know how to do this)
  • Unschool your children while maintaining your sanity

Those are just a few topics/classes that I have been or would be interested in. And being a ‘hands on’ person – classes provide me the opportunity, in a small population setting to learn, ask questions, and obtain knowledge. I know I’m not the only one. And if you learn this way, then you can likely teach this way.

So…what’s stopping you?

Get to teaching!

‘Cause people like me (and you) are waiting to learn new things.


p.s. I’m working through some priorities these days. A full explanation of what’s going on, and why I’m not posting as often, can be found here.

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