College night school was once the domain of the working class. The seats were filled with adults trying to move up the corporate ladder in their chosen fields. They were exhausted from working all day, and not particularly enthusiastic. There was very little joking and carousing with the professor. The atmosphere was brittle and dry; as if winter’s cold grey was on permanent display in the classroom. Twenty years ago, that was my night school experience.
Circumstances have prompted my return to night school. The faces have changed. The majority of students are actually still in high school. The up and coming young adults of our community fill the seats. They are enticed by the lure of a free education. They are loud and raucous, energetic, and enthusiastic. Sometimes they give me a headache, and sometimes they make me laugh. More often than not, I listen to what they have to say with an open mind. Do they hear me?
The adults in my class are quiet and respectful. We do not interrupt the professor when he is speaking. We take notes and study. We listen and ask questions politely. The majority of adults in my class are probably parents of teenagers. A college education comes at a high price. I have a full time career and I am raising two teenagers as a single parent. My nights are filled with school assignments and deadlines.
The quick and agile minds of young students are a definite advantage. Lessons learned are still easily recalled. It was only last semester they turned in a research paper and received an A. Computer skills are second nature to younger students. College classes do not intimidate them; anything is possible in their brave, young world.
It’s no secret that aging affects short-term memory. I must work harder and longer to learn and recall the lessons. This may seem a disadvantage, but in truth, it only makes me more determined. The satisfaction I receive from a good grade spurs me forward in my studies. I enjoy the learning process and even appreciate it. I take nothing for granted. I have never written a research paper. My computer skills are only passable, at best. However, I too feel anything is possible in my ever- changing, brave new world.
Do students from vastly different age groups and backgrounds have anything in common? Can we learn from each other?
I have learned first hand what a difference a college education can make in my lifestyle. A fuller and more rounded life experience gives me the determination and drive to return to school. The teenage students in my class seem to be focused primarily on just getting through the class. In time, maybe we can help them understand the significance of a college education.
The enthusiasm of the younger students is contagious. They slowly infect the rest of the class until finally, we all become more animated and lively. The discussions become a lesson in perspective. While night school today is vastly different from when I was younger, I enjoy the social diversity and stimulating atmosphere these younger students provide. I like the impact these young and rowdy students have on night school. I think I’ll keep coming back.