by Suzannah Gilman
A commercial shown last night during the Olympics made me sad. Children were shown riding the public bus and in other public places as well on the sofa at home, all saying “My mom got her degree right here… and here… and here.” It’s a commercial for a distance learning bachelor’s program. The children proudly said, “It’s an accomplishment.” Well, it’s certainly something to have a piece of paper that says you went to college, even if you were never physically present in a classroom.
I thought of my own children and how proud they are of me for graduating from college. I went to Rollins College full time, on academic scholarship, and finished my last three years while serving my school (volunteering and as VP of the English honor society, Sigma Tau Delta) and my children’s school (PTA board member, classroom volunteer) and being a Cub Scout Den Leader and a member of the Pack Committee as well as assistant leader for my daughter’s Brownie troop. I drove my kids to school, made their lunches, chaperoned their field trips (including a 5th grade trip to Washington, D.C. while I was studying for mid-term exams), and even found time to exercise. How could distance learning be necessary if it’s possible to be present and functioning in all of these places in all of these ways?
I wouldn’t trade my classroom experience at Rollins for anything. It’s where I got my second positive self-identity in my life (my first: as mother), where I became empowered, where I made friends I will always keep, and where I gained the confidence to apply to law school. I went to the highest-ranked law school in the state, feeling like I was standing on top of the highest mountain.
This girl from a single-parent family who grew up on food stamps and free lunches and never went to high school could not have made this quantum leap if I’d “gone to school” on a bus.
This poem by Tom Wayman, “Did I Miss Anything?” speaks to the importance of the classroom experience. Don’t miss out on it.
Classroom in Orlando Hall, photo by Rollins College