What is “reschooling”?
Reschooling yourself is reflecting on how school shaped you into the person you are, and choosing to shape your own life from now on. It’s about realizing when you’re on the wrong track and doing what it takes to get on the right one. Reschooling yourself means appreciating the school experiences that empowered you, and moving past the ones that didn’t.
I firmly believe that it’s never too late to reschool yourself, whatever your age or circumstances. You don’t need to pull a “Billy Madison” like I did. You can use these Reschooling Tools to go through your own process.
Why is reschooling yourself important?
Most of us spend between 12 and 20+ years going to school. It has to have a major influence on the people we became: how we see ourselves and what we choose to do with our lives.
We all experienced things in school that affect our adult lives day-to-day. By bringing these memories to the surface and becoming conscious of them, we can be intentional about what impact they have on us as adults. See Why Reschool? for examples.
Is Reschool Yourself part of an organization or institution? Is it a nonprofit?
No, it’s a project that I started on my own.
Why did you go back to your old schools?
A friend describes my approach as “The Slingshot Effect” — pulling back a bit in order to spring forward. I wanted a fresh start in life, and because school was the place where I got off track in the first place, a school “do-over” made sense.
My immediate goal in going back to my schools was to trigger emotionally charged memories of my education, so I could understand them and move beyond them. I had regrets over the way I approached school, in large part because of the competitive structure that pushed me to achieve. Those regrets left me with a lot of emotional baggage that continued to influence my adult life. I wanted to make peace with my educational past so that I could control the way it influenced my future.
My long-term goal was — and is — to be healthy and content, to feel like I’m living the way I want to be.
What did you do at the schools?
In the early grades, I began by volunteering as a classroom aide, but I soon decided to take advantage of the rare opportunity to learn alongside the kids experientially. I found that being “just one of the kids” brought back my own school memories more effectively than volunteering as a grown-up. As much as possible, I did what the kids did. In the lower grades, I practiced handwriting, illustrated stories, or played games on the blacktop at recess. I did, however, take copious notes on what my adult mind observed.
In middle and high school, I shadowed a student from each grade for a few days each. I did whatever the students were doing, whether it meant taking a science quiz, running the track in P.E., or eating lunch in the quad. In class discussions, I answered questions if called on but didn’t raise my hand, to avoid being pegged as “that creepy super-senior.”
In college, I sat in on classes taught by my old professors in Philosophy, Psychology, and Classics. I participated as I was inspired and called on.
I’m always interested in other people’s perspectives on school, so I also talked at length with the teachers and students about their experiences.
How did the kids react to you?
The younger kids fought over who could sit next to me at lunch, talked my ear off, and demanded that I tell them stories. I felt more popular than I ever did as a student.
I wrote in my post about P.E. class that the older kids tend to have a lot of questions for me, like “What are you doing here?” and “Can you you put me in your book?” Here’s an excerpt from the post:
You’d think that I’d blend in more with the older, bigger kids than the little ones, but the opposite is true. Whereas the younger kids just seem happy to have a big playmate, the older ones have a lot of curiosity about what I’m doing back at school and are constantly asking me questions. My favorite question was from one quirky boy, who approached me with a determined look on his face and said, “No offense, but are you a girl, a teenager, or a woman?” I was tempted to answer him by breaking into the Britney Spears ballad, “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman.”
When you returned to the schools you’d attended, were your old teachers still there?
Elementary: None. However, there were several teachers and staff who had been teaching at the time I was enrolled (they just weren’t my teachers), and they hosted me in their classes. I ran into a handful of my old teachers who now sub at the schools, and I spoke with one on the phone.
Middle school: A few. I participated in classes taught by my old math and drama teachers, as well as classes taught by other teachers who were at the school when I was a student.
High school: Almost all.
College: Many, whose classes I visited.
I was able to visit my old classrooms even when they were occupied by new teachers, and the physical space brought back memories that I’d long forgotten.
What do you write about on the blog?
- School Experiences and Memories in and out of the classroom, from participating in a math competition to attending a middle school dance. I tried to capture the experience vividly, in part to help readers remember and reflect on their school experiences along with me.
- Personal Development, documenting my quest to overcome perfectionism and workaholism, to learn to take care of myself and do what makes me happy. On an ongoing basis, I share the “Reschooling Tools” I’m using to make these changes.
- Educational Philosophy and Practice, comparing my experience at my old schools today to my previous experience, as well as to my ideals.
- What I’m Learning, sharing the new knowledge and skills that I’ve gained.
Do you still maintain the blog?
Yes. I write about the things I’m still learning, and the ways I’m growing after the project.
How did you fund this project?
I’m grateful to individual donors for funding the project entirely.
Have you read Eat, Pray, Love?
Eat, Pray, Love is one of my most favorite books, and it was part of my inspiration for creating Reschool Yourself. In fact, when I read it the first time, I was so energized to start writing myself that I put down the book around page 50 and didn’t finish it until months later — 10 minutes before attending an Elizabeth Gilbert speaking engagement. (I was sheepishly reading in the line for the women’s bathroom right before the talk began, feeling like a kid rushing to finish her homework before a quiz.) When Gilbert finished speaking, she’d charmed me and the 750 other women in the audience (as well as the 20-or-so men) into wanting to be her best friend.
Have you seen the Adam Sandler movie Billy Madison?
I often say that Reschool Yourself is Billy Madison meets Eat, Pray, Love. I have seen the movie more times, and can rattle off more ridiculous quotes than I care to admit. I had Billy’s back-to-school song in my head throughout my reschooling. Check out the post “Billy Madison vs. Melia Dicker” to see how our experiences compare.
Are you writing a book about Reschool Yourself?
Yes. I’ve taken time between living the experience and writing the book in order to renew my energy around it, and to understand my narrative arc as a whole. I had to let go of the idea that I needed to write a book so I could write it because I wanted to. It’s nearly finished, and I’m currently looking for a literary agent.
What are you doing now?
I live in Mississippi and work in digital media. I’m married and have a son, three cats, and a dog. They keep me busy, but I find time to write in the late evenings.
Can I subscribe to your blog or email updates?
Yes, if you’d like a heads-up when I update the blog, you can subscribe through a blog reader like Feedly, which will let you know when I post.
If you’d like to receive semi-regular email updates with Reschooling Tools, anecdotes, and bits of inspiration, subscribe here.
What if my question wasn’t frequent enough to be answered here?
Email me! I’d be happy to answer what inquiring minds want to know.