5 Things My Education Taught Me That Aren’t in the Textbook



This August will be the first time in (almost) my entire life that I haven’t found myself in the stationary aisle of Staples picking out notebooks and pens for a new school year.  I can hardly remember a time when I wasn’t a student, and now, what seems like all of a sudden, I’m being forced to change the way I define myself.

We spend so much of our young lives wanting to be finished with school, to not find ourselves in a familiar classroom come September.  But now that that is a reality for me, I’m not sure what comes next.  Today, I’m going to indulge myself though – for your benefit of course.  I’m going to tell you the five (non-textbook) lessons I’ve learned from 16 years of school.

Grades aren’t the most important thing

Or at least, they’re not the only thing.  What have you learned so far from all these years in school?  And I don’t mean who was President in 1943 or what the Pythagorean Theorem is (because I certainly don’t remember half of what I learned in math after the 6th grade, and you can easily Google every President the United States has ever elected).  I mean the life lessons, the things that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life.

What did your 2nd grade teacher tell you that you’ll never forget?  What did the green light in The Great Gatsby teach you about your life?  How did you change from that terrifying first day of kindergarten to now?  That’s the most important thing.

It’s not always going to be easy or fair

That first time a boy pulled your hair on the playground and got away with it?  Well, that’s one of the biggest lessons you’ll ever learn in school – because life doesn’t get any easier after elementary school, and what’s fair isn’t always what happens.

It’s what you do with those experiences that matters – sure, the little boy who pulled your hair isn’t bestowing any great life lessons on you at the time, and you’re probably not a better person for it (screw that idea that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger), but you’re going to encounter much worse later.  Like a girl stealing your report that you spent weeks perfecting, and using it to get the job you wanted.  Now that’s not fair, but it’ll teach you who to trust, and that you have to work that much harder to get what you want in life because not everyone is going to play by the rules.

Take a mental health day once in a while

I’ll be real – this wasn’t ever really anything I ever struggled with.  My mom made sure of that by waking me up at 6am on a Tuesday and announcing that instead of spending the day reciting lines from a Shakespeare poem, I’d be exploring Washington DC and seeing the cherry blossoms with her.  And let me just tell you now – sometimes, those days “off” were so much more educational than class would have been.

I’m not saying classes and homework and school aren’t important – of course they are – but sometimes, a day to recharge is more important.

The really important classes are taught outside of class

I mean really, who hasn’t wished that their school offered a class in keeping a budget or nailing an interview? I know I did…several times.

You might night be able to get credit for it, but there are classes, at least in college.  Most universities have a careers department where they’ll help you write a resume, teach you how to get and nail interviews, and even practice with you when you land a meeting for the perfect job.  Departments like this are the most worthwhile part of that $15,000-a-semester tuition you’re paying, so don’t waste them!

You’re going to miss it when it’s over

All that structure – the knowing what comes next, and where you have to be each day – yeah it sucks sometimes, but you’re going to miss it when you don’t have it anymore.  Don’t hate it or rebel against it too much now because when it’s over, you’ll need to remember what it was like.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06233756591616182740 Emily Spada

    This is such a great post. Too many times have I heard my friends, people, etc say things like, what good will college do me? I can’t get a job, no one else can, people are in debt. But what I urge them to see is this: that’s not the POINT. Yes, I learned a lot in my classes in college, but I learned more about myself than anything. I learned what kind of person I wanted to be, what kind of work I wanted to do, what kind of people I wanted to surround myself with. There’s SO much more to college than just going to class, and I think a lot of people miss that.

  • http://fizzylemonlife.wordpress.com/ fizzylemonlife

    I definitely need to remember that when I’m in the library at uni breaking down with stress! The path I’ve taken isn’t exactly ordinary but I’ve learnt so much about myself. Thanks for posting and reminding us all that education is a wonderful thing in so many ways xo

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07907345404528238425 Breanna

    Yes, yes and yes! It’s amazing how much I more I learned outside of the classroom than in it. The last point really hits home, I actually do miss school in a weird way…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10302148853962386923 Aukele Cockett-Askew

    My most important lesson was to do an internship (which I didn’t do).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07641127993537065273 Ashliegh

    Yes to all of these! I learned more from being involved in leadership positions than I ever did in a classroom! I was in Walmart earlier and noticed they had their school supplies stocked in the aisles and I got really excited about it. Then, I realized I wouldn’t be shopping for that stuff this year! So so sad!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04526288851432270960 Marielle Green

    These are all so true. I can see why people complain about higher education – the expense, the emphasis on paper qualifications rather than experience – but I still think it’s necessary because the overall experience just (to use a cliché) opens you up to new things and people.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03647863540091005703 Lindsay Ropella

    Love this post! Especially your point about learning that things aren’t going to always be easy, and life isn’t always going to be fair. I think that’s such a tough lesson to learn in a world where we are taught from kindergarten that if we don’t bring a Valentine for every kid then no one can have one, but so important. And how is it that I’ve been out of college for 3 years now, yet I still find myself picking up new pens and pretty notebooks in the “back to school” aisle every August.. ;)