When has going back to school ever been fun?
I hated public school and quit high school after three years. In all that time I found only one great teacher who inspired me. They fired him after he gave us The Catcher in the Rye to read.
I think I had the best time when I went back to night classes at Newark Rutgers when I was in my early thirties. There were lots of other working adults in my classes, and I made some great friends. Plus, it was so relaxing to sit back and let someone else do the hard work in front of the classroom after I’d put in an 8-hour day at my job.
In my early thirties I felt young enough to fit into any classroom, and I had the confidence back then not to care what an 18-year-old thought about me.
When I went back to school in my forties to study creative writing at San Diego State, I didn’t feel so comfortable. I was keenly aware of being way older than any of the other students. I knew I didn’t speak their language.
The first classes I took were undergraduate prerequisites, but once I started taking the graduate classes, I found my kind of people. And again, I met some great friends who came to our house for a monthly writing group. Adrian and I went to student parties and no one seemed to care how old we were.
Graduate students can be any age and fit in.
This week I’m starting a class at Tompkins Cortland Community College. I did it last year, too, and each time I get anxious about the prospect. At this point in my life, I could be these students’ grandmother. In fact, my grandson will be on campus at the same time. As well as my daughter, who is an administrator there.
The class I took last year was filled with 18-20 year-olds. And me. But these students were friendly and respectful. They didn’t treat me the way I would have treated an old woman in my classroom when I was 18.
The other embarrassing part of going back to a creative writing classroom is that I have taught creative writing. I tried to hide that fact last year, but what I said instead of the truth just sounded stupider.
I know it’s the first day that’s the hardest—the day everyone gets to introduce themselves and say why they’re taking the class.
Why am I taking this class?
Things should be easier this time, anyway, because a friend of mine will also be there. Two old ladies are stronger than one.
We don’t think of ourselves as old ladies, though, because we still think we’re cool. We’re not taking this class to fool around or fill an afternoon, either. We’re serious. We want to write.