Throughout my school career, I have had a lot of really great teachers, but only one fits the bill as being the most inspirational and influential teacher I have ever had. Or, simply put, she was hands-down my favorite teacher. She was my tenth grade English teacher. Despite her austere, strict demeanor creating fear in many of her students, she taught her class in a way that was not only relevant to the class, but to the wider world. She was only a part of my school career — and life — for a short while, but her life lessons continue to guide me today. I am so thankful to have had her as an English teacher, as well as for her to impart bits of wisdom onto me, and in this post in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week last week I will share with you 5 life lessons from my favorite teacher. #thankateacher
‘Choices make consequences’
If my English teacher had a motto, then this was it. She always said ‘choices make consequences’ so often that sometimes it was a tad bit annoying, and even worthy of an eye roll. For example, if a student didn’t study and ended up failing their test, or they didn’t do their homework, then she would simply shake her head and say ‘choices makes consequences’ as a way of explanation. At the time, I admit that I didn’t fully understand the ramification of this seemingly innocent statement.
At the time, I was thinking of the big choices that you made consciously like what college to go to or what job to pursue. But what I didn’t realize is that it is even the smallest, seemingly insignificant ones that can affect the rest of your life. Even the choice of what you choose to eat for breakfast one morning, or the outfit that you choose to wear today, they all have a natural consequence. Every movement, every behavior, and every action is a choice in the making, and the consequences to those choices inevitable.
The value of time management skills
From the first day of my tenth grade English class, my teacher told us that we were not allowed to go to the bathroom during the class, unless we had a signed note from a doctor. She said that we needed to deal with our business in between classes, during the five minutes of class change.
At the time, I remember my classmates and I looking around in horror and mortification, unsure if she was serious or not. This was the first teacher who ever blatantly refused to excuse anyone just to go to the bathroom. This was the first teacher who would not let us leave for anything unless we were literally on our deathbed. But this was also the first teacher who taught me the value of using time efficiently, and not wasting time. Instead of socializing in the halls in between classes, we should go take care of our business before class, so that we wouldn’t be missing out on anything in her class.
By telling us that we couldn’t go to the bathroom during her class, she was getting us ready for the future. After all, in college or in the workplace, you can’t simply leave the room in the middle of a work meeting, and you can’t walk out on a customer, just to use the restroom. And by not letting us go to the restroom during her class, she had prevented it from becoming some sort of waystation, and turned it into a sacred undisturbed sanctuary for learning during those forty-five minutes of class.
Presentation is everything
From the very beginning, my English teacher had specific requirements for how we were supposed to complete our work. For example, we had to use a black or blue pen for everything. There couldn’t be more than three crossing-outs on a single page. Moreover, she refused to accept a piece of paper torn from a spiral notebook. I can still visualize the look on her face that time when she was handed in a slightly crumpled sheet with ragged edges.
At the time, I simply accepted these requirements as that from a teacher who was extremely nitpicky and fussy. But truth be told, I didn’t mind these requirements for I was a student who would never turn in a sheet of paper with ragged edges that looked liked it had been placed rather indecently into a backpack sans folder. I was the student who ended up spending hours on end rewriting an entire essay just because there was even one crossing-out, because I didn’t want to face my teacher’s displeasure.
Looking back, I now realize what she was trying to teach us. She was trying to teach us that presentation is everything. She was teaching us that in every piece of work we do, we had to give our best effort. Giving our best effort isn’t just the quality of the words on the page, but how it is presented. If a book or article doesn’t look good at first glance, then who is going to want to read it? Who is going to want to even touch it?
Find the information yourself
Unlike most teachers who willingly give out page numbers, my English teacher always refused to simply give us the page number. Time and again, she told us that she did not want to “cripple us.” She wanted us to find the information in our textbook ourselves instead of simply being told to turn to a certain page and read a certain paragraph.
By not giving us the page number, she was teaching us how to read and use the table of contents and the index. She was also teaching us the value of finding information independently. When doing research, we won’t always have a teacher or someone there to help us find the information. At a certain point, if you want the information bad enough, then you have got to find it yourself. Much as I resented it when she refused to give us the page number, I have come to appreciate it for giving me the ability to find information independently.
Work to your full potential
My English teacher always told us — indirectly — to work to our full potential. Rather it was emphasizing the CP in English CP (College Prep), encouraging us to think critically, or contributing to class discussions, she gave us all the power and motivation to work hard. There was no hand holding in this class. She knew that we could do the work and she expected it from us.
Looking back, I am glad that I didn’t have a teacher who have simply been satisfied with just satisfying the minimal standards, but rather one who encouraged us to do more. Looking back, I realize that I don’t have to do just to the bare minimum, but instead can keep striving high for the stars. As I remember my teacher and all of the life lessons she imparted upon me, I will continue to work to my full potential.