September 2013

Back to School and On with Life


It’s September, and that means it’s” back to school” season. Even though there aren’t any school-age children in my own household, I can’t avoid the reminders — from advertisements about school supplies to nature taking on an end-of-summer look. Other people tell me they feel the same way, relating to “back to school” as an annual, even pivotal, marker of the passage of time.

Even with that being the case, as an adult I suspect that “back to school” isn’t just an annual event signaled through a start-date, shopping and other rituals. Does “school” really end and then re-start? For school-age and university students, learning happens over the summer break, just as it happens away from the school location during the so-called school year. And as to the rest of us: education is not just for the young.

Considering this on a broader scale, I believe that, for all of us, every morning is the start of a day of learning; and every evening is a chance to reflect on how it all went, tests included.

Education in its true role — framing how we make our way through life — has as much to do with preparing to contribute to society as with the ability to do jobs and develop careers. Stemming from this idea, every day presents a chance to learn and to grow; to pass and to fail; to build and to try again.

The Bahá'í International Community has proposed “an educational approach directed towards personal growth and societal transformation . . . to tap the roots of motivation and produce meaningful and lasting change”. This idea encourages our schools to infuse a sense of morality and social responsibility into the curriculum. And to all of us outside of the structured educational system, this idea gives purpose to what we do and learn every day.

Baha’u’llah wrote “Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning”. Reflecting each evening on how my day went, what I accomplished, what I learned, and whether I was guided by moral principles — this is part of education and learning. Sometimes we are faced with troubles, and the effort to get through the day is in and of itself full of learning and being tested. Ironically, accounting for progress and growth is probably more obvious in those times.

Outside of personally challenging times, there is the opportunity to learn through feeling grateful and through sharing our lives. And if the day doesn’t seem to present tests, perhaps there were the equivalent of “pop quizzes” instead. Similar to what happens in “school”, every day presents surprises, challenges, opportunities, and choices with consequences to evaluate.

Whether my day is filled with great or small tasks, I can adopt an attitude of continuous learning. And if I use what I learn to guide my actions then I am fulfilling the words of Abdul-Baha: “Let deeds not words be your adorning”. When my actions are coherent with my words and beliefs, then I have passed both my quizzes and my tests.


© Jaellayna Palmer 2013