Sunday, September 18, 2011

On Education

I taught a class on organizing your family history yesterday to a genealogy society and I'll admit that a few days before I was thinking, "Why do I do this?" I have taught at various venues for a number of years here in my community and have always enjoyed it. But every once in a while, when I look at my absolutely crazy schedule, I wonder if I should continue. Is it really worth it? But then I teach again and I remember, "Oh yeah! This is why I do this!" I have to thank everyone at the Jefferson County Genealogical Society for being so warm and welcoming. It was a beautiful drive to Chimacum (near Port Townsend), and the view of the Olympic Mountains as I drove over the Hood Canal Bridge was inspiring. But really the highlight of the whole day was getting to teach those wonderful people. They were so gracious and kind, and I just had so much fun!

I have always loved attending genealogy seminars and programs. Heck, I just enjoy learning period, full stop. I remember taking a Career Interest class at Bellevue Community College back in the day and one of the things they measured was how much you enjoyed learning and what type of situation you learned best in. Were you a college lecture-type person? Maybe you learned better in a hands-on trade school environment? As soon as I got my results back, I knew they had me pegged: I was listed as potential PhD material. Now, this had nothing to do with being intelligent or not. It was simply that I love to learn in the college environment and apparently they figured I was good to go for long enough to get to that level. Truth is, I'm back in college for my second bachelor's degree (it's tough to go get a Master's in Computer Science when your original degree was a Bachelor of Science in Zoology). Is it harder at my age? Yeah, I'll admit that I find some things more difficult. Am I enjoying it? You bet I am!

What I find interesting these days is how I'm viewed in the classroom. I am, on average, old enough to be most of these kids' mother. No kidding... I attended the orientation in August for the program I'm starting later this month at the University of Washington Tacoma campus and actually had one of the kids say to me, after I explained the pros and cons of the workshop classes, "Ok Mom, we'll sign up for the workshops." When I later asked the department advisor how I got into the program (since as a post baccalaureate student I didn't have a very good chance), she said that the head of the program took a second look at my application and said, "Oh definitely. We want this kind of diversity." That led me to think, "Me? Diverse?" When I told my husband about this, he laughed and asked how it felt to be diverse because I was old. Let's just say I didn't find him all that amusing, especially given that he's 14 years older than me! But I really do enjoy the atmosphere I'm in with those kids (and I can rightfully refer to them as kids, since I have children their age) and the energy they bring to what they do. It makes me remember what it was like to be that age, going to college for the first time, and trying to figure out what I was going to be when I grew up. (By the way, when I solve that little mystery, you all will be the first to know...)

The interesting thing that I've found is that the more I learn, the more I love to teach. I have taught genealogy seminars in public libraries, retirement communities, LDS Family History Centers, and at our state genealogy conference. But then I have also taught teenagers in early morning seminary for church (yeah, 6:00 a.m. every weekday morning back then!), little ones in Primary classes, music during Sharing Time, preteens in Sunday School, women in Relief Society, and occasionally Sunday School. I'm currently teaching some of the young women in our ward. I even recently had the rather unnerving opportunity to fill in during our Sunday School class with no previous preparation. And let me tell you, we have amazing sisters that teach our Sunday School class; they are a tough act to follow! I'll be honest though and say that I found it a very interesting experience. It's not often you have to fly by the seat of your pants, but I got the chance that day, and thank goodness for wonderful class members who contributed and didn't let me fall on my face! So I think that's why I enjoyed teaching yesterday so much. I often find that I get as much out of it as the people that attend. The people who attended yesterday's class asked interesting questions; they obviously wanted to learn, and that made all the difference for me as the instructor. It just feels good to share what you know and be appreciated for it.

In reality, education at any age is a choice. We can choose to rest on our laurels and just go with what we already know, or we can get out there and try to learn one more new thing. Or may two... or three... I find that in the genealogical realm, there are a whole host of ways to do this, including taking online classes through the National Institute of Genealogical Studies in Toronto (I'm about 2/3 done with my certificate program!), or through the National Genealogical Society. Don't have that kind of time? Try the lessons on that involve finding your ancestors during their Five-Minute Genealogy courses. How did I learn about those? I read Cyndi Howell's blog and you can too!

So go out there and learn something new today. It doesn't have to be genealogy related of course, but then again, why shouldn't it be?

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