Early mornings, late nights, long meetings, uncooperative students...on a daily basis, teachers encounter many of these undesirable obstacles. However, those teachers still have the time, effort, and patience (or are really good at faking it) to carry on throughout their day and share knowledge and new information with their students. Teachers have one of the hardest jobs on the planet - lengthy work hours for less-than-average pay, dealing with kids, and - say a prayer - their parents. As a current high school senior, I have had many teachers in my life. Some I was too young to remember, some are just a name paired with a blurry face in the back of my mind, and some I might unfortunately remember for the wrong reasons. Then, there are the teachers that I've gained more from than just a grasp of the curriculum they're required to teach. These are the teachers that have gone above and beyond; those who overstepped the boundary between teacher and lifelong mentor. For educators like this, I am eternally thankful.
Over the years, I have learned several different unforgettable life lessons from my teachers, and since these will carry on with me into adulthood, I've decided that the need to share them is very great. Without further ado, here are the top (lucky) 7 life lessons I've learned from my educators - past and present.
1. First impressions really are lasting.
Educators are prime examples of this life lesson. For instance, if your teacher shows up to work on time (which really means "early" in teacher-speak), appears collected, and is (mostly) organized, he/she is likely to gain more respect from his/her students than the teacher who slides into class at the same time as their students do - right before the bell - with a wrinkled shirt and missing materials. Students, I've noticed, are far more likely to respect the teachers that respect them and their beliefs (what a concept!!!!). Another part of this life lesson I've learned is that "the things you say will stay". If a teacher talks sharply to a student, it's highly unlikely that the student (or any member of their class) will ever really "forgive and forget". I personally still remember things teachers have said to me (or even my classmates) back in elementary or middle school that they probably should've thought through. In short, first impressions are key to any sort of success in any life endeavor. A teacher I had my freshman year once told my class on the first day of school that he could already see who would do well in his class based off of our expressions and the observation of who brought (or didn't bring) school supplies. I didn't believe him at first. In fact, I thought he was being very judgmental - he'd only known us for about fifteen minutes. At the end of the year, however, the kids who showed up on day one in sweats and a scowl were either no longer in the class or were passing by the skin of their teeth. Even though these results could've taken a turn for the better in the middle of the year with a couple changes of heart, I'm still shocked to this day that my teacher could deduce all of that from only a first impression...and if a teacher can easily do that before they even know your name, so can a future employer.
2. What you give is what you get.
I've been told this by all of my teachers. If you give 100% effort, you'll get...well, 100% (A+!!!). If you show that you don't care, your grades will reflect that, and your teacher will be less likely to even consider giving you extra time on your project because "something came up". This applies in the workplace as well - if you give everything you've got and turn things in early, your boss is much more likely to let one little mishap slide because you had an emergency and couldn't finish a report.
3. Asking questions is key to your success.
Questions help you learn. Questions help you improve. Staying silent does not. A middle school teacher of mine told my class that "only an idiot would stay silent when the opportunity to gain free answers is sitting right in front of him taking roll".
Making mistakes is part of life. I don't really know anyone who isn't slightly nervous to raise their hand in class due to the fear of getting ridiculed for answering wrong. However, mistakes like this are part of the learning experience. Not knowing is completely okay, and it's also okay to raise your hand confidently and then unknowingly give an answer that's completely incorrect. An amazing dance teacher once told me "if you're going to mess up, mess up big. Make it look like you meant to do it all along, and be so confident in your mistake that no one will dare challenge it."
4. You can't always get what you want.
Besides hearing my mother repeat this over and over to my little sister and I when we were younger, it takes an entirely new effect in school. You're going to want stellar grades, a high-class rank, and an easy, study-free ride. In all honesty, you can't just have all of this - you've got to work for it. In a future workplace, you will again experience the known truth that things will not always go your way. You've got to learn to adapt. In one of my earlier science classes, for example, this boy was sulking because he couldn't research his all-time favorite topic of camels (please do not ask why I remember this) for his project. My teacher looked directly at him and said "you can't always get what you want. The dinosaurs probably wanted to live another thousand years or so, and look what happened to them. At least you'll still be alive after you turn this in".
5. Everything is not a competition.
Slow and steady wins the race. Know that you will get to the finish line, and you will succeed. Just because someone else reaches it first does not mean you never will. Another amazing teacher quote - "I hate class rank because it makes students think they are defined by a number. They are NOT defined by a number." A score or rank does not control your life, nor does it define you. As long as you are doing your best, you're winning.
6. Teachers don't actually hate you.
Just because Mrs. So-and-So took up your phone in class or Mr. Whoever failed to notice your raised hand before someone else's, it does not mean they hate you. Teachers have to abide by the rules, and just because a teacher does something you don't like does not at all mean they did it particularly out of spite. Maybe your teachers didn't mean to sound like they were snapping at you when they asked you to be quiet - maybe their fuse is just shortened (or burnt out) from a particular problem class earlier that day. Think about things before you say them. "Hate" is a strong word. Until you're looked in the eye and told "I hate you", you should never assume that someone "hates" you because they did something you wish they hadn't. Teachers are not "out to get you", either. They're out to get you better, yes, and they're out to get you to achieve your goals.
7. Do the things you love, and love the things you do.
Teachers are underpaid and overworked, yet they show up to school every day and continue to benefit the lives of others while trying vigorously to organize their own. Your teachers love what they do, or they wouldn't be doing it. They are a prime example of not having a job just for the money. You can't base your life choices on how much money is in your pocket. Money cannot buy happiness. Make your own choices, and "do what you want to do because you want to do it."
For the teachers that have taught me these lessons and continue to pass this wonderful knowledge onto others, thank you. Thank you from the bottoms of the hearts of every student that walks through your door, understands a subject because you've helped them through, feels safe within your classroom, and enjoys learning because of you. Here's to the teachers that do more than just teach what they're required to by law, because important life lessons like these...well, they'll never be in the curriculum. You aren't required to teach them, and yet you do because you are just so dedicated to your students. So thank you for pushing on, day after day and year after year, to give your students the best possible education you can. Some of us may not tell you, but we really are thankful.