The summer holidays are over and the kids are returning to school. But what about you? Have you ever thought about heading back to the classroom?
Since I graduated from university I’ve been ‘back to school’ many times – sometimes for vocational reasons but mostly for leisure – and, whether it’s to obtain qualifications or just for fun, there are good reasons why you should consider taking adult education classes too.
Regardless of the reasons why you missed out, evening classes give you the chance to pick up where you left off when you walked out of the school gates. It may be that you simply want to improve your literacy or numeracy to help your own children with their homework. Perhaps you have no formal qualifications whatsoever and want to prove that you can pass exams after all.
In cases like these it’s worth finding out if there are Basic Skills schemes in place in your area. A lot of people think that basic skills classes are only for those who can’t read or write but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I was involved as a tutor in my local scheme on the Isle of Man for almost 20 years and, during that time, I worked with students at all different education levels. My first student was studying for professional qualifications and, after a few years out of the education system, was lacking confidence so we worked on his study skills including essay writing, revision techniques, and tackling exam nerves.
Sometimes lessons with other students were spent updating their CVs, filling out official forms and writing letters that they didn’t feel confident enough to tackle alone.
Regardless of their reasons for being there all the students left with more confidence and a sense of achievement, particularly as some had been ‘written off’ by teachers during their school days.
Sometimes returning to study is a prerequisite of your job. For example, I went back to the classroom to get an accredited Human Resources qualification as without the right certification it would have proved difficult to progress in my career. In these cases, if you’re lucky, your employer will often pay the course fees for you and, certainly in my case, that was incentive enough to turn up and do the work.
Even if there are no recognised qualifications needed for your job you might choose to get some more GCSEs or A-levels to update your CV and give you a better chance at a new job. Some of the students I tutored were keen to progress in their careers but felt that a lack of formal qualifications was holding them back so I worked with them towards completing (and passing) their Foundations Skills qualifications – two went on to get new jobs with better salaries while one received a promotion at work.
Studying in your own time is generally well considered by employers too as it shows commitment (after all, who really wants to go and sit in a classroom for two or three hours after being at work all day?).
It’s also worth considering that evening classes (not to mention the coffee breaks) offer an excellent opportunity to network and, potentially, meet a new employer.
Leisure classes are extremely popular and, if you browse the adult education prospectus of your local college, you’ll probably find everything from cake baking to jewellery making, yoga to car maintenance, and plenty more in between.
Foreign language classes tend to fill up quickly as people come back from their summer holidays and decide that, by the time their next holiday rolls around, they’ll have mastered at least a basic conversational level of their chosen language.
When I moved to Spain in 2017 I couldn’t speak Spanish so one of the first things I did was to sign up for classes at a local language school. Not only did I get a good understanding of the basics but I made new friends in the process which is always a bonus in the first few months of living in a new country. Which leads nicely to my next point.
When you head back to the classroom you can guarantee that you’ll meet a whole host of new people all with one thing in common – an interest, if not a passion, in the subject you’re studying. With adult education you choose what to study so, whatever your ‘thing’ is, you’ll be among like-minded people. I’m still in contact with people I’ve met in the classroom over the years – some as fellow students and some who I tutored.
Keeping your brain ticking over long after your school days are behind you can have a positive effect on your mental health. Whatever you choose to study has a knock-on effect of increasing your confidence levels as you learn a new skill or delve deeper into a subject you’re already interested in.
Not only that but going back to the classroom, meeting new people and building support networks can help combat loneliness.