“Life is a classroom. We are both student and teacher. Each day is a test. And each day we receive a passing or failing grade in one particular subject: grace. Grace is compassion, gratitude, surrender, faith, forgiveness, good manners, reverence, and the list goes on. It’s something money can’t buy and credentials rarely produce. Being the smartest, the prettiest, the most talented, the richest, or even the poorest, can’t help. Being a humble person can and being a helpful person can guide you through your days with grace and gratitude.” ― Philosophy
In life, each day is a classroom and each one of us is challenged to perform. To me, this has an entirely different meaning because every day I truly am in a classroom, and this is because I am a 7th grade language arts teacher. While my primary focus is teaching reading and writing, I try to infuse life lessons into the curriculum by bringing in current events and quotes that make my students truly think about the world. My hope, like every teacher, is to make a difference, but unfortunately teachers often receive more criticism than praise.
Students come and go from year to year and occasionally there is gratitude, but it often happens long after the fact, years after you’ve taught the students, and you rarely get to see the impact made. However, recently, I found out what a difference I made in several of my students.
As an 8th grade language arts assignment, each student was asked to write a letter to a teacher who inspired them at one point in their educational career. Those letters are then placed in the teacher’s mailbox for the teacher to read.
Having never taught a graduating class, this was the first year that a class I taught was able to participate in the assignment. This class was extra special because I had the pleasure of teaching them twice, in 5th and 7th grade, and was thrilled to have several letters addressed to me and waiting in my mailbox. Most who wrote to me stated that my positive energy and love of travel inspired each of them in one way or another. One girl wrote that I was not only her teacher but also her travel guide and fashion consultant, and another said I inspired her to one day visit Antarctica because it was on my bucket list. They shared memories they had from class and some even said that I made them fall in love with writing – a writing teacher’s dream!
While I was flattered by each letter I read, one student’s letter showed me what a real difference I had made in this young lady’s life. This student, one of my best writers, developed her letter through lessons that I taught her throughout the two years she was in my class; lessons that she learned through my actions, not through my lesson plans or based on state curriculum. She included a story with each lesson to show just how I taught her, and the very first one began all the way back at the very first day of 5th grade. It was here that she struggled to open up her lock and she begged me for a new one. I knew that the lock wasn’t broken, so I would not give her a new one, knowing that she was perfectly capable of opening the lock if she just gave it a chance. It was here, she said, that I gave her her very first lesson.
At the time, and throughout the years, I never realized that I had given her these additional lessons, but obviously they meant the world to her. Her letter brought me to tears as she recounted each experience over the four years I had known her, and how every single action I took made a difference.
Here I will share my lessons with you, in hope that they will inspire you, just as they inspired the little girl with the lock that wouldn’t open.
Have patience and never give up.
Be who you are and express yourself through whatever it is that you love.
Be energetic! It’s okay to get carried away once in a while!
Be adventurous and take every journey life gives you with no hesitation.
You don’t have to choose between having a fun time and being productive.