Many Canadians are going back to school. They are looking to upgrade their workplace skills and gain new knowledge.
How do they fare? What is it like adding a learning program to an already busy life? How do they handle the new challenges? The people and the experiences in these stories are real.
Conquering Fears of Math
Peter, 25, always dreamed of being a pilot, but he wasn't good enough in math. After high school, he got a series of jobs as a gas jockey, van driver, worker in a car wash and armed guard, but he wasn't happy. At a Career Centre, he met other people who were interested in changing occupations. When he told them how he'd wanted to be a pilot, they asked why he didn't follow his dream. "That made me think I could do it," he says, "but I was nervous about facing math again." To his surprise, Peter discovered that his old problems in math had vanished. "When the math was hooked up to something real like flying a plane," he explains, "I got good marks."
Peter W., Alberta
Knowing Her Learning Style Makes a Difference
Dawn dropped out of high school in Grade 10. Although she didn't know it at the time, classroom work didn't suit her at all. When she returned to school at age 22, she discovered she was primarily a hearing learner. "I have to read material out loud to myself. That way I hear it better."
Dawn S., Prince Edward Island
Sylvia, a single mother, had a lot of fears about going back to school to upgrade her skills, but she's learned that the important thing is not to get overloaded. "If four courses are too many, don't quit them all," she advises. "Just drop one course." She's also learned not to panic when she doesn't understand something. "When I can't handle an assignment, I ask the teacher. That's what they're there for."
Sylvia G., Alberta
Juggling Family and School
Mike had been working in the steel industry, but decided to go back to school and get a degree in education. "It's meant a lot of sacrifices for my family," he says. "We had to cut corners and trim the budget." Mike has found that the most difficult changes were the new routine and the loss of family and free time. He used to pick the children up from school and spend evenings with his family. "Now," he says, "I'm not home until 10 p.m three nights a week."
Mike S., Alberta
At First, "A Stranger in a Strange Land"
Although Peggy had worked as a journalist, she wanted a change. But she found that going back to school was like being "a stranger in a strange land," very different from the work world. "It's frustrating," she says, "when an instructor tells you that something you know because of your life experiences isn't useful." But Peggy found a community of other mature students that made her feel comfortable. She also discovered how easy it was to get help. "There are courses for study skills, effective writing, and how to use the library. The support is there if you need it."
Peggy G., Alberta
A Distance Education Learner
Gary spent two years at a regular university before deciding that he was a seeing learner and he "really didn't enjoy most classroom lectures. Now, I work with textbooks and use my computer for programming, writing and e-mailing with my tutor."
Gary N., Alberta
Source: Canada Prospects 1994, 1998, HRDC.