The best advice I’ve ever gotten didn’t come from a guidance counselor. I didn’t read it on a billboard or an advice column. I didn’t hear it from a friend or a talk show host. The best advice that I’ve ever gotten came from an underpaid teacher who spent countless hours making lesson plans, creating Powerpoints and grading papers. They taught me y=mx+b, the cruelties of the Holocaust and Newton’s Law of Gravity, all of which were useful to know. Still, their most valuable lessons didn’t come from a Calculus textbook or a Chemistry study guide. On the contrary, it was the wisdom that they poured into their students about life that stood the test of time. I carry these lessons wherever I go. Today, I pass them on to you.
1. On people….
“Statistically speaking, the best way to predict what someone is going to do isn’t by what they say. It’s by what they’ve already done.” – J. Eastman, Sociology 101
He wasn’t saying that people couldn’t change. He was, however, being realistic about human nature and applying what he knew to be true about people. As a freshman in college with insurmountable expectations for everything and everyone, it was exactly what I needed to hear. Every time I applied it, I was a little less disappointed.
2. On life…
“You play with time and then time plays with you.” – S. Nair, Prob and Stats
In a basic math class, full of high school seniors who had no idea what was ahead of them, Mr. Nair told us that we had no time to waste. I was 17 years old and my biggest concerns were prom, the senior trip and graduation. I looked away for a second and now I’m an adult with an extensive to-do list, a tight budget and an alarmingly high amount of anxiety and still… no time to waste.
3. On relationships…
“What you see is as good as it gets.” – K. Brinkley, Algebra
Known for her exceptional teaching and witty comebacks, she kept us all on our toes. On one occasion, she told us that she had been married before and that it didn’t work out because she never changed. Whenever I think about someone’s potential, I try to assess whether or not I would be okay if that was all it ever was… Could I marry potential? Would I be okay if I couldn’t change them? Would I be able to accept them? It made me examine the relationship that I was in at the time… I thought it would last forever but it was toxic and, as she said, was as good as it was going to get.
4. On work ethic…
“Excuses only satisfy those who make them.” – R. Pinnex, Global Studies
Ahhh, the world history teacher with a “no-nonsense” policy and a low tolerance for slackers. Your best was not HER best for you. She wanted more. There was only one way to do everything: her way. “If you don’t have time to do it right, you have time to do it over” she would say. She deemed me “Ms. Sassy Pants” because I challenged those rules. Today, I am thankful that she had so many. She taught me that excuses were useless to others and myself because they enabled me to be average. She held us all to a higher standard with the hopes that we would exceed it.
5. On finding yourself…
“Finding your calling is like your parents forgetting to tell you your name on the day you were born. You spend years trying out different names, hoping to find one that fits. Then one day, in a crowded room, someone whispers your name and it finally makes sense.” – Dr. W. Fondren, Communication and Technology
Listen, everything this guy said was pure GOLD! For this particular class, he based an entire course around 7 key concepts and taught them using tv shows, movies and his own personal anecdotes. On the first day of class, he told us that he never planned to teach. He got married young, decided to get a degree in Psychology, worked as the Director of Technology for a newspaper company, became an ordained minister and then fell into teaching and loved it. What did I learn from all of this? It was okay to not have all of the answers. It was okay to keep trying on shoes until they fit. I was a graduating senior, nervous about the future and at that time in my life, what he said was exactly what I needed to hear. Besides finding ourselves, he taught us the importance of knowing when to start over and admitting when there were “too many feathers on your back.” I was in no way, shape or form, a morning person but in that class, I kept my notebook, eyes and ears open.
Here’s to the teachers who double as motivational speakers and therapists; who teach you about people and about purpose; who push you to be more but not to be someone else; who have experience in both their professions and in life. You are well respected and greatly appreciated.
The impact that you can make on the next generation is endless. Every word that you speak will have the power to change a life. I am a writer because a teacher told me that I had a gift. Whatever you pour into them, they will put out into the world. Knowledge is power but your wisdom is timeless. So go forth, be great and share it.
With all my love and appreciation,
“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”
–Henry Brooks Adams