Ed·u·ca·tion| EjəˈkāSH(ə)n/ – defined as an enlightening experience; the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.
I used to think education meant only in a classroom setting. As I am nearing the end of my university experience, it has become clear to me that education often takes part outside of a classroom setting, too. In university, many life skills and transitional skills are learned outside of a classroom. It’s the in-between from adolescent to young adult. It’s a time for making independent decisions and asking yourself the tough questions like who do you want to be? What do you want be remembered for? And whom do you want to surround yourself with?
University is a time for immersing yourself into new things and experiences. Many people learn outside of the classroom through various cultural experiences, others learn through participating in various initiatives on-campus or in the community.
So, what makes an educator? Who decides what an educator is and is not? It’s all about perspective. Some people may consider themselves educators because they acquired a Bachelor of Education degree. Others may consider themselves an educator within a given role of leadership, or having expertise in a specific area. I never really considered myself an educator. I don’t have an education degree, nor do I have a copious amount of knowledge in one particular area.
In recent years, I have fallen out of love with school. This could be because of a lack of motivation towards schoolwork in general, an uncertainty about what my future brings, or growing dispassionate about the Physical & Health Education degree I am close to finishing. It makes it hard for me to strive for excellence in an area I no longer feel elated by. In this respect, I often don’t feel qualified to give myself the title of an “educator”, because education is often associated with a formal classroom setting, which has not been a place where I have greatly excelled. The term “educator” is often imposed onto us in the office and tossed around casually, and this can be uncomfortable for me, when it is not a term I strongly identify myself with.
However, I have recently realized that I have a specific set of skills that allow me to help others in a role of leadership and educate them on the things I have some knowledge in. For example, I became an educator when I was asked to lead tours of the school, educating incoming students and their families about the services on campus and the given locations for those services.
As well, although this may not be a typical form of educating, I have noticed that under the right social circumstances, I tend to educate others on societal issues I am passionate about. These conversations at times can unintentionally create controversy or conflict. However, I am a strong believer that it is important to challenge one another. Without challenge, there is no growth, and it is important to keep progressing and developing. It is important not to become stagnant or set your ways; being open to other people’s ideas can be a wonderful opportunity for a thought provoking conversation.
Peer education can be an outlet where individuals are challenged and encouraged to learn outside of a traditional classroom. Students learn from one another whether it is intentional and effortful or not. I have been in roles of leadership at Nipissing University where the learning was reciprocal. In my previous roles, I expected to teach students and help them transition into university life. In reality, they taught me just as much about life, if not more, than I had demonstrated to them.
Socially, I find myself learning from my peers all the time. Sometimes this occurs conversationally, with intention sparked by my curiosity. Other times, it happens through observation. Although they may not be aware of it, I am often inspired by many of my peers. I developed productive habits by observing things I like about other people, such as getting organized and staying on top of assignments, staying motivated in the gym and having a balanced social life. I have adapted these habits for myself from people around me who have been highly successful during their time at Nipissing University.
Learning is a continuous spectrum that takes place in many forms. Education is not confined to the walls of a classroom. For many, the knowledge gained outside of traditional education can be just as meaningful. Lately I have noticed myself regularly trying to recognize and seize opportunities for learning outside of a classroom setting. I would encourage others to recognize opportunities for growth as well, to make the most of their time at university and the relationships with their peers. Four years may sound like a long time, but university will fly by before you know it. It’s up to you to make the most of the experience, challenging yourself to learn from others around you as much as possible.