Settling into a routine after the first dizzying weeks of graduate school, I had come to enjoy the solitude of my nearly mile long walk to the train. The weather was perfect in that crisp Midwestern way. Shades of green tilted yellow not quite slipping into russet.
Criss-crossing the street where one sidewalk ends and another begins, I thought about the journey that my education had taken. I recalled walking to grammar school with my big brother. That half mile trek seemed more like ten to my six year old legs. I recounted walking nearly three miles each way to and from high school, mostly because the bus schedule was inconvenient. I soon came to relish that walk.
When I reviewed the college years, the series of starts and stops that my college education had taken can to mind. I didn’t consider myself an unconventional student when I returned to finish undergrad as a 36 year old mother with a new baby and an adorable eight year old daughter. I did my homework along with her and read Vygotsky, Luria and Piaget while I nursed my son. Learning became integrated into every facet of our lives. We learned math while we cooked; fluid dynamics during bath time; and debate when it came time for bed.
I wanted to make learning a seamless fun experience in contrast to my own schooling. God bless the nuns who ran our school with an iron paddle, and God bless bibliophile parents who had me reading by four. My own educator mother having completed her k-12 education as a day student in a strict Catholic all girls boarding school, was a no-nonsense educator, as in dinner, homework, bath and bed. She was definitely all business when it came to school and educating her brood. None of this was fun, it was all work.
I’ve got this thing…it has to do with meaning. My life and my actions have to mean something. If I couldn’t figure out why I was learning something, or if I couldn’t find a practical use for it, then learning it made no sense to me. If I had a cognitive hiccup along the way with something like “new” math, and couldn’t figure it out, it was like my brain quit. Frustrated by my own visual/kinetic learning styles, and the sit-still-be-quiet-pay-attention routine favored by educators then – okay, it still happens today – I came to hate school.
By the time I made my way back to the classroom to get that undergraduate degree, I’d made peace with my own learning styles; and mercifully I had begun to understand the politics of the classroom. I discovered that not only did I love learning but I found the motivation to accomplish those educational goals.
The image of the Sankofa, an Adinkra symbol from Ghana came to mind as I walked to the train station that fall day. More than any other, its image of the bird moving forward while looking back perhaps best symbolized my journey. I was moving forward, but with the wisdom learned from the past.
I moved forward with confidence as I neared the station entry with ten minutes to spare. That train got me to school an hour earlier than class, which was my routine. Just then, I noticed that my favorite linen jacket was no longer on my arm. It sat in the middle of the sidewalk, at least two blocks back, its crumpled green heap just visible at a rise in the concrete . My leisurely walk turned into a mad sprint as I ran back to fetch my jacket and returned just in time to catch my train.