Own Your Education

Teaching someone else is the best way to learn (Photo by Moodboardphotography)

If you are going to take the trouble and the effort to sign up for a distance learning class, you should make the most of it. That sounds obvious, but not everybody knows how to go about doing that. Here are a few tips that can help.

Start out slow, and start out with something that you are familiar with. Which subject did you like best (or hate the least) back in the day? If it’s possible, make a class in that subject your first step back onto that road to further education. Ease into learning online, into adding all that extra work into your already packed schedule. Unless you were a star student in high school, start out with only one class—you can always increase your load the following term, when you’ve got a better idea of what you’re getting into.

Pick one subject, and make it your own. Something that you are good at, something that interests you, something that you can use to impress your friends, something that will help you at work. Just one subject, even if you have to pull some time away from your other subjects to do really well at this one. If it’s Math, do your best to understand the concepts behind the rote learning; if it’s Language Arts, read as much as you can, especially the Classics (there’s a reason that they’ve lasted), but modern authors as well; if it’s History, relate what was going on in one area of the world to what was going on in the rest of the world at the same time, and don’t forget that today is tomorrow’s History. Once you own your subject, no one can ever take that away from you. Once you know that you have learned one thing, you realize that the entire world of knowledge is open to you.

As you toil along, find some way to remind yourself why you are taking these classes, and working on that degree. Put that reminder somewhere that it can perk you up when you need it. And you will need it. No matter how dedicated you are, there will be days, even weeks, maybe, when you wonder why you are putting yourself through this agony.

If you thought school was difficult the first time around, wait till you are trying to get through it with a job; maybe a family; obligations that fill at least two full-time work weeks—every week. You’ll need that subject that you’re soaking up to get you through, to remind you that you are capable. Then when you need help from someone else in some other subject (and you will need help if you’re doing it right), you’ll have your knowledge to trade, if not with your immediate mentor, then with some other person—paying it forward, as it were. And if you’re doing it right, you’ll soon realize that the more you know about something, the more there is to learn, and the more fascinating that subject can become. Have fun with it!

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