Stories from the Street: That Time of Year

It is the beginning of a new season for OIM, or so it feels, as the Fall has a particular mood to it. I suppose it is the sight of bright yellow school buses that brings a twinge of hopefulness to each of us. We have been trained, since the age of five, to think of Fall as a time of new beginnings and exploration. What will we learn about ourselves, our community, and our greater context in this coming season?

We never stop learning, though it sometimes may feel as though we do. Our street-friends are a great example of this.

The other night at Passion 4 Youth we had a special guest from the University of Ottawa, a doctoral student who is running a focus group of which our youth are taking part. The room was not set-up as it normally is with scattered artwork, and instead took the form of a horseshoe of tables  facing a chalkboard. This took me back to my own school days.

The discussion surrounded social structures, education being one of them, and one of the youth made a statement I hadn’t really let sink in before. I was sitting listening to the intelligent conversation, how many of the youth picked up on both concrete and abstract ideas, they debated logically, sharply, and synthesized the presented information. As we discussed education one youth said, “Yeah, but most of us never graduated. I left school in grade nine.” I knew this was reality for many of our youth, some of the youth had not graduated high school or even middle school. (Not to say all of them, we also have youth who have attended post-secondary.) It is an easy point to forget if you have listened to them discuss a subject with the intensity I have witnessed.

But formal education is not the only way to learn, to develop yourself. Our facilitator pointed out that she was choosing to develop herself in the academic setting because she liked it, and also recognized it was not the only way to learn. Humans are amazingly adaptive, and have the ability to absorb quantities upon quantities of information.

We are always learning, every minute of our lives is an opportunity to take something new away from our experiences. I have been ‘out of school’ for a year, and how stiff I feel. How quick am I to stay budged in my seat, to tell everyone I have achieved what I needed to achieve. I have a diploma and I am done.

I am ashamed of myself, to feel so completed as a person. The youth kindly kicked my metaphorical behind and reminded me that ‘graduation’ has little to do with anything. We are always in school, though sometimes it feels to like it more than others.

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