Here we are on August 1st, and I'm in a back-to-school state-of-mind. Walk into any Wal-Mart, Target, or drug store and you can't miss the stacks of school supplies! Reams of blank notebook paper...pencils yet to be sharpened...everything is new and unspoiled, hinting at the promise of filling clean slates with knowledge and discovery.
I remember my own experiences as a young girl, accompanying my mom to shop for my school supplies and school clothes each summer, right about this time. Ask my mom, and she will tell you that my folders and notebooks could not be dog-earred and I would not accept covers that had scars from spiral wires or otherwise careless handling. Later in life, as a woman attending graduate school, I got to discover all over again just how much I loved the process of getting ready to learn. Certainly, many things had changed...buying a laptop computer in some ways took precedent over the more traditional school supplies. But even so, I still had to have the right folders (without scars!) and pens and highlighters and color-coordinated Post-It Notes. What a joy it was for me to touch and feel my way through those aisles, dreaming of filling my own head with new and wondrous knowledge.
For fall 2011, I am not enrolled anywhere as a student and while I can't come up with any rational excuses for buying anything for myself beyond a scant gel pen or two, I have had a blast hitting the weekly sales and purchasing school supplies to donate to the local drives. The recipients of my contributions will surely never know just how fastidious and fussy I was in choosing their pristine composition books. Nor will they know how much I wish and hope that they as students fill those pages with thoughts and facts and questions and that they write outside the margins, and dog-ear their own pages, and visit and revisit certain sections so many times that they have to rubber band their well-worn covers. Learning, I believe, is best when it is messy! Thinking critically requires...messiness! Learning isn't linear. Rather, it is a funneling in, sifting through, and tossing out, or at least placing aside, kind of process.
To our RCC students, and to students out there everywhere this fall, I envy you your mess! I hope you enjoy the process of learning, and I wish you great success in your studies.