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Learning at any age is importantPosted Date: 08/29/2017
By: By James Washington Division of Youth Services Public School Program Coordinator
Education is a continual process.
Every moment, every situation provides an opportunity to learn something new. A person’s willingness to learn at any age does a lot to upgrade their standard of life.
I can personally attest to that. And I am thankful for how far I’ve come.
I’m James Washington, an alumnus of Ouachita Baptist University who’s a Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Youth Services (DYS) Public School Program Coordinator.
The career I have and how I approach my duties was decades in the making.
My childhood unfolded in Hot Springs during the era of Jim Crow. In the midst of turbulent times, the importance of education was championed by my parents and other adults in my community. These individuals all desired for my peers and I to have a life filled with success and happiness.
They knew that education, being able and willing to learn at any age, was the key to reaching that goal.
The concept of attaining a quality education was so ingrained in me that as a student at Langston Jr. High – I decided to become an educator. At Langston, we were taught the traditional education subjects. However, our teachers – who were all black – also emphasized principles such as valor, citizenship, and good character.
Those teachers and their life-lessons have influenced me a lot. To this day, I take heed to their guidance.
The passion I have for learning is spurred not only by my childhood, but also several situations I’ve encountered as an adult.
Many of those developments are linked to my tenure in education.
I’ve assumed several demanding duties as an educator, most notably being an assistant principal, principal, director of student assignments, and student advocate ombudsman.
However, especially in relation to learning at any age, my time as principal of Henderson Middle School in the 1990s taught me a lot. For years the school had been overwhelmed by gang violence. When I became principal, I along with a few staff members, found ways to relate with and love those supposed “bad kids” in a way they had never experienced. Treating those particular students as youth who were simply in need of love, hope, and reasons for optimism opened their eyes to the damage they were causing. Eventually, we curved the tide of gang violence at Henderson.
Those students learned a lot in that situation. But I probably learned more from them – than they did from me. Prior to arriving at Henderson Middle I’d seen a lot and been through a lot. However, some of the most influential lessons I received came from a group of people several decades my junior.
In 2014 – after 35 years – I retired from public education and joined the DYS staff.
In my role for DYS I’m often reminded that people make mistakes. Basically everyone deserves a second chance. That second chance to succeed is amplified with a solid education. I take pride in being able to use educational resources to help at-risk youth.
Even when things don’t go as planned, I receive solace from knowing that I’m in a position where youths learn from me. And in the instances where I can build a rapport with our DYS students, I usually learn from them as well.
Learning at any age is important. I appreciate how DHS, by way of DYS, has provided me with situations in which I learn from the youth while they’re also learning from me. It never gets old, despite me now being an old man.