How Old is Too Old For School?


It is true, I am slowing down. My mind doesn’t race from one thing to the next and I can spend long periods of time researching a topic or even reading an entire book without distractions. That’s new for me and this skill came with age.

It was endless determination and energy that got me from poor to middle class, but I have always wonder what would happen if I finished a degree; would I have risen to the top, the cream of the cream, or would it have made no difference at all?

It is not like I am ignorant or anything, in fact I am very well read, researched, molded and cured. I have plenty to show for my colourful street smart, road schooled life, so it was never wasted. I have worked in many fields, done many interesting things and I have seen much of this magnificent world. So… I have no real regrets.

I am one of the lucky uneducated people of my generation!

However to start a traditional formative education at 43 in a university while working seems like a huge undertaking. The road ahead seems long when all my previous credits are 16 years and older and cannot be applied towards my current degree. No worries though, as my life experiences and world travel gives me a lot to draw from when applying them to my Education Studies Program; my Bachelors of Education. In fact so far, I cannot believe how much of the curriculum just seems like common sense to me. Of course, I am only in my first year.

Before Alfonz, my lovely husband, and I were too busy travelling, working and setting up a new expat life in some country or another. We were raising babies, and constructed new businesses from the ground up. To even think about slowing down was a no go; we were always under pressure to move forward! There was never time to go back to school for 3-4 years.

However it was something I wanted to do and as the years went by, it was something I did not want to miss in life. And in many ways I wanted to show my teenage children a good example to go and get their degrees before the responsibilities come. I wanted to share with them the importance of getting that piece of paper and to ensure them I would do whatever I could to help them reach their own personal education goals. Not because it is impossible to live and work without it, god knows Alfonz and I are survivors not matter where we end up, but how much easier would life have been with that little piece of paper, and to show them how doors will open with added knowledge and developed skills. That is something we never had; options or help!

Somehow I lean towards the idea that this is a new trend in the world. You know, for people over forty, now that they have established themselves a little bit, perhaps not having to worry about the next paycheque, they go back to school to do something a little more suited to their personalities, perhaps even more rewarding. Honestly 6 years ago when I started teaching, I had no idea how much I would love it. Every day is a gift, always different, and endless challenges. I question if I would have loved it this much if I started as a teacher all those years ago when I started working full time at Canada Safeway making union wages? I don’t think so.

What separated me from others back then is the same as what separates me now; the ability to read people and talk to and communicate clearly to make them understand what I am trying to say. It made me a good employee, which in turn made me a good manager, and those skills are transferable to teaching. Teachers draw from their own personal experiences and bring them to the table. Listening to what students need, making sure we do whatever is in our power to help them, and to relentlessly believe in their abilities is in actuality the skills of a good teacher. No different than running a business and training good staff. Can they be taught or are these types of people born?

I bet so many of us have got stuck in a job that pays well which never quite feels right.  We stay out of fear of never making that much money again. We find a security in staying put in the rut and it becomes a comfortable place to build a routine.

And so it goes. We press on.

We remain untrue to what we really want to do while our obligations mount. Mentally we convince ourselves that this is the only answer.

We make the best of it.

We never leave our comfort zones.

I know at the Open University they have 18 year olds right up to 92 year olds in the same classes. I take comfort in knowing that I fall somewhere smack in the middle. Just like my new found middle age.

Is online learning a blip do you think?

More and more employers are understanding the value of online learning. They want us to acquire a skill but they do not want us to stop working and turning the wheels of their business.

With so many online courses and educational vocations offered online, I can only imagine a world where more take advantage to learn online; from junior high school right up to university. I can imagine cooking in the comfort of your own home, while someone like Julia Childs works from her own kitchen live in front of you teaching you how to make Ratatouille. I can imagine robot teachers correcting homework, while teacher is live from Shanghai on vacation. I can also imagine tutors via Skype or recorded lessons on holograms for students to access later in the evening when they are stuck. My imagination is pretty vivid, but when I asked students what the future would look like to them, ICT may seem futuristic but it is coming fast and those ideas will be very normal very soon. In fact I can imagine every teacher teaching online to the students they have now. Lessons online, questions online, and even exams online. It would save a whole lot of paper and travel time.

School could be for socialization, project based learning, and team building skills where instructors that lead the students and not teach them. I can imagine a place where kids come together to play, think, and grow. The boring stuff students can whiz through at home.

With returning to university, I know I am taking a giant leap of faith in myself. I have always promised to be close to home for my children, and before they came along, when I worked full time or two jobs, I found it hard to physically go into university to take the courses I wanted. I managed a few, and took anything that fit into my busy schedule, but life, paying bills, starting a family, and building a house always came first. Life never made an easy path towards education for me until online courses started to appear more frequently and were more widely accepted.

Now it is not only feasible to work and take courses, but I can see more and more people doing this in their spare time. I feel that this porthole will be the only way to learn in the future making information available to everyone with an internet connection. And cheaper than contemporary educational systems! Yup 17,000£ for a BA in education studies, where it would mount three times that back home living off student loans to make the bills. My teaching friends back home are anywhere from $40,000CA -$150000CA in debt! Crazy!

Back in the day, most university students could not go to their tutorials, classes and work at the same time. They had to travel to their classes, go to the library, and spent most of their days on campus. The Internet has made information readily available to millions of students, saving travel time, and making a degree feasible. Moreover, I cannot see myself ever stopping this learning process. I hope to continue my education for the next twenty years. It feels like this is the next phase of my life, not to see the world, but to learn and understand all those why questions I have accumulated along the way.

As more and more courses are offered, more and more students will take advantage of online universities. Once a Star Trek episode, now it is a reality. The future is already here folks, and it is time to embrace it.

Well, so far, the course itself has been easy to follow. On my student page it really spells things out clearly, making it super easy to follow my personalized schedule. I have a personal tutor to help me succeed. Our forums are full of other students taking the same programs. Everything is logically written in the simplest possible format for success. My timetable is mapped out so I know exactly what is due and when.

The best part! It gives me comfort to hear all the success stories from the Open University. They are the best known, and most credible online university offered today. I hope my own success story will be added to the website!

radio interview expat eva
Eva Hamori The Open University Student BA of Education 

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