Autumn thoughts turn to classes

blackberrying Angus Racy HelpsI’ve never understood why I was taught to think of Autumn as a metaphor for closing down.  Okay, so my early school was rural.  In this season tractors hauling crops regularly passed our gates, and after 3.30pm many of us roamed amongst the workers gathering things in.  We even helped, occasionally, especially if fruit was involved.  Yes, days were getting shorter and winter was approaching.

But, and it’s such a big but I was tempted to set it in capitals, at the same time as harvests were happening, soil was ploughed, harrowed and sowed with crops for the next year.  In the UK, it’s one of the busy times of the agricultural year.

The same rule applies to learning.  Autumn is the beginning of the new academic year.  Remember the noise and excitement of that first day at school, the energy: the excitement?

Working in the FE sector on short courses, I’ve learned that September and October are still the main time when people think about signing up to learn something.  Are we wired to look for classes in autumn, or just following a pattern established in childhood?

Either way, now’s the time when I begin to check in with the office to see how the pre-enrolment numbers are going.  What will be popular?  How busy will the next few months be?

Busy, busy, busy, that’s my view of autumn.  Okay, so the days are shortening, but far from life slowing, in the classroom, the energies and excitements of the summer are being re-focused.  What better way to keep spirits up, as the light levels drop, than to learn or practice something?

It’s easy to feel that once we reach adult-hood we can, or maybe even should, put ‘school’ away.  Not so.  While it may be tricky to fit learning into the busy modern lifestyle, once tried, many stick with it.  They discover that joining a group of focused and enquiring adults can be stimulating, fun and stretching.

Aside from the chance to make new social connections, there are long-term health benefits to returning to classes as an adult.  In a Radio Times article from April 2016, Ellie Walker-Arnott reported that:

A Scottish study has tested over 600,000 factors in a group of 79-year-olds regularly since they were 11. It found that a quarter of brain ageing is down to genes while three quarters (75%) is dependent on our lifestyle choices.

One of the lifestyle choice the studies advocate is on-going education.

Learning something new changes the micro-structure of your brain and sees its size increase in certain areas, rather than shrink.

If you do similar sudoko challenges every day for 10 years it won’t work different parts of your brain, it’s got to be something new. Life drawing is a good option, as each picture is a fresh new challenge. As is learning a new language. Whatever you choose, continuing to learn as we age can have a “dramatically positive effect.”

Autumn thoughts, it seems, should be active.

 

*    Illustration at top of page, ‘Blackberrying’ by Angus Racy Helps.

8 thoughts on “Autumn thoughts turn to classes

  1. Cath you are certainly pushing on an open door here. Variety in learning is obviously as important as variety in diet for our general well-being.
    (I will take up your suggestion of Life Drawing with Pat and see if we can squeeze something in to CASA’s timetable.)
    Roll on Autumn.

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    • Roll on Autumn indeed, Mike. CASA always seem to supply an interesting variety of learning. I must just clarify the Life Drawing suggestion though. It wasn’t mine, but was quoted from the article by Ellie Walker-Arnott.

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      • Oh, that’s a pity, Pat thought you’d be the perfect tutor for such an exercise. Your skills with the flip chart are ample proof of your ability 😃 and with 90% of the audience being female the poor chap modelling would need considerable wholehearted support.

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        • Words on a flipchart, maybe, but my drawing skills wouldn’t pass muster, I’m afraid. I feel certain you’d all be tutoring me, rather than the other way round.

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  2. Great article, Cath. I too am looking forward to the autumn schedule and run a couple of classes. For myself, I am attending a course this month. Only one day but I am looking for others. Maybe attempt to learn Irish.

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    • Thanks Lynda. I’ve fingers crossed that the learning process theory applies to those on both sides of the desk, as most of the courses I take an interest in seem to coincide with some part of my schedule.

      Well done you on taking up Irish. That’s impressive.

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  3. I like autumn, especially here in France. For me it signifies both a beginning and an end altho I think you’re right, that ending feel is partly conditioned. Learning a new language has definitely perked up the synapses and dreaming, imagining plotting and planning the current work-in-progress should do wonders for the ‘little grey cells’. Wish there was something for the wrinkles. 🙂

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