The Most Important Lesson Taught at School
By Holly McElwee
I usually write for parents in this space, but today I’d like to address students directly. I suspect parents already know this message, so here’s a secret I’d like to share with students. Kids, the most important lesson you’re learning at school isn’t an academic one. The most important lesson is how to handle life.
I’m sure you’re surprised to hear that coming from a teacher. We’re all about books, right? Reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic. Now don’t get me wrong, those are important. You have to learn those things and many other academic topics, too. But, if you can’t manage the tough times life throws at you, then the book learning is pointless.
Life is hard. It’s not always fun, and it’s certainly full of heartbreak and unfairness. Ask any adult, and they’ll be able to talk for hours about the strife they’ve endured in the adult world. I bet they can also tell you how they’ve been able to survive those tough times, too. It likely was because the 13 years they spent in school got them ready for it. Allow me to share a few examples.
You have to take a class on a topic you don’t like. So math isn’t your favorite subject. Get over it. Your time in the adult working world will be spent doing many things you don’t like. Being an adult isn’t all fun and games. You have to buckle down, do the work that’s required, and don’t waste time complaining about it. Even in your future home life, you’ll have do many tasks that aren’t your favorites. Toilet cleaning, diaper changing, floor mopping…they all fall into this category.
You don’t like your teacher. Big deal. Your teacher isn’t supposed to be your friend. They have a job to do, and that’s to teach you. Whether you like that person or not is irrelevant. The same will be true when you have a boss. Your boss’s job is to manage you, not to be your friend. Forget this concept of liking the person who’s in charge of you. That’s not their role.
The people you go to school with aren’t nice. Unfortunately, you’ll meet lots of people in the world who aren’t nice. You’ll probably even work with some of them. It’s too bad that we can’t all be kind to each other and treat each other with respect. I agree on that point. However, you have to be able to endure the meanies of the world. You can’t cry every time someone says something unkind. So, put up a wall around yourself and figure out how to ignore the mean people of the world. Right now you’re going to school with some of them, and in the future you’ll work with a few of them, too.
Deadlines are deadlines. When your teacher sets a deadline, take it seriously. Someday your boss will also set deadlines and will expect you to meet them. This might mean working late into the night or putting other fun things on hold until the work is done. Don’t ignore deadlines. They’re there for a reason.
Groupwork teaches teamwork. Your teachers give you groupwork to teach responsibility and teamwork. We can’t always work alone. Teamwork will be part of your adult life whether it’s in the workplace or at home. Everyone on your team will be counting on you and will expect you to do your part. When you don’t, everyone suffers, and usually someone else will have to pick up the slack. Don’t think that your lack of action affects only you. Your co-workers will depend on you. Your family will depend on you. Right now, your classmates depend on you. Don’t let them down.
When you graduate from high school and go out into the world, it’s these life lessons taken hand in hand with academic content that will propel you to success in the adult world. It’s time to hunker down, get to work, stop complaining, and face the music. The adult world is tough. Get ready for it!
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