This year is just the second time since I started elementary school that I won’t be going to school. It’s funny because most people tend to say things like “oh you’ve been in school so long you must be a great student.” Which while I have always gotten pretty decent grades as I’ve moved on I’ve noticed how much more I appreciate certain aspects of school and how I wish I would have learned things sooner or appreciated things more. As this new school year starts I can state fairly certainly that most of the people that have had major impacts on my life were teachers or counselors. While most people during an Olympic year look to the athletes of the Olympics as national heroes, I have always found teachers to be more of the tangible role models that I looked up to.
When I look back on what subjects and what lessons have had the most impact or the biggest memory in my life, there is usually a teacher to whom I am extremely grateful. The one lesson that to this day is one of the best lessons I’ve ever learned, came from 7th grade science class. With a simple sheet of paper things seemed to change for me. It wasn’t the fact that it had a list of assignments and the grades for each of the assignments or the date they were due. Rather the lesson that mattered the most was this small little column that was for our initials. It was the explanation for this column that really started to change things for me. With the simple phrase, you are responsible, things changed. It wasn’t just turning in the assignment by the due date. In that class we also had to grade, potentially redo the work, turn it in, make sure we got it back, add it to our folder, and then put our initials in the book saying that we understood and accepted the grade as well as that we were responsible for having it in our own private grade book.
This might not seem super profound to most people. But the moment you start telling a teenager that they are becoming responsible adults you start to empower them. You start to show them that every lesson even the ones you don’t get grades for can be important. Even though it wasn’t required, I tended to use a similar grading and organization system even through parts of college. Not because it was easy, but because I was responsible.
While I will continue to grow and learn and improve and make mistakes and fail, I know that every day is a chance to learn from new teachers. I hope that as my nephews and nieces and the other kids in my life take the opportunity they are given to learn and grow every day. Although so far I feel like I’m learning a lot more from them about things I’ve forgotten, I hope that I’m able to help teach them along the way too.
As people go back to school, I just want to say thank you to all the teachers in my life, including the ones who don’t work for schools.