As I was walking across the Luther College campus to my office this morning, I found myself thinking about the students taking their final exams this week. I wondered if they would look stressed and tired from worrying about grades and cramming for tests.
Then I started thinking about what I actually remember from my college classes at BSC, LiU, MCC & Baylor (yep, I was quite the college hopper). You know, information, facts. And I realized that I don’t remember much. I can’t recall any information from my theatre, art, or music history classes (but I do remember studying art and music history in parallel and having fun discovering common threads). And don’t even ask me about physics, geology, and biology (oh wait, I do remember one thing from biology: eating undercooked ground beef can give you E. coli). I don’t even remember very much from my computer science classes (my major), except that describing the way from your house to the airport is a kind of algorithm.
But here’s what I do remember. I remember…
- that I met my future husband at BSC on the deck in front of the ATO house.
- that one of my teachers at LiU was Danish (as were some of our texts).
- how to write well (and the importance of editing).
- that I won the English Student of the Year award at MCC two years in a row (and didn’t for a second stop to think that writing could be a career option).
- that my first computer science teacher wore the same outfit every day to simplify shopping, and that he worked at the University of Texas when they bought their first computer (it was so hot in the building, it wouldn’t run).
- how to work smart to make things happen.
- that my Principles of Software Design prof didn’t show up for the final exam.
- how to do research (without using Google).
- that my friend and I stayed up all night finishing a programming project related to the Gnutella network (and subsequently giving our prof a jar of Nutella).
- that this same friend took me to get ice cream after I got a B on our first Networking exam (except we got there before they opened, so we had to sit in the car and wait for a while).
- how to negotiate and compromise.
- that one of my profs told me, “Tabita, when you get into the real world, you’re going to want to shoot for 90.5%, not 105%. (My first burnout warning.)
- how to play the violin.
- that I had the opportunity to be a teaching assistant for one of my profs and do a summer project with another.
- how to solve problems.
- that a very generous person in conjunction with Baylor, our church, and the government paid for my education, so I didn’t end up with any loans.
My point is this: education (and life) is about experiences. It’s not about facts we learn on a given day for a given purpose. It’s about big-picture, world-changing things we do—alone and with others. Mistakes we make. Wise, interesting, and funny things people tell us. Help we receive—and give. These are the things that matter. This is what we should prioritize at all levels of education and in life.