I had a brief career as a high school English teacher. My love for literature and desire to do something meaningful with my life brought me to that profession, but after a few years, I pursued other avenues and am now home with my own children. I still think about many of my former students from time to time, however. My last year teaching, I was saddened by a general attitude that I saw among my students, and I wish I could go back and address them. If I could, these are the words I would tell my students:
Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean that it is pointless, and just because something is difficult doesn’t mean that it is stupid. If you don’t learn to push through these hard lessons in school by doing your best now, then you will have set yourself up for a pattern of quitting later. Working hard does matter, and you will not be rewarded now or later for mediocre work.
For some of you life is hard now. Some of you have crappy parents–I’ve met them–but don’t let anyone determine your destiny except for you. We don’t all start on a level playing field, and some of you will have to work a thousand times harder to start at the same point as one of your classmates–so work a thousand times harder. Life isn’t fair, and the sooner you get that idea out of your head the better. If you want to succeed, take the steps to make success happen.
Success is not measured by the amount of money you make. True success is living your life in a way that, at the end, you won’t be ashamed to stand before God. True success is finding that which brings your life joy and meaning, and giving your all to that cause.
Follow your dreams, but understand that all dreams come with sacrifice. Our society doesn’t like to talk about sacrifice, but it is a word you need to embrace. If you want to be a musician or actress, go for it! If you want to serve in the military, make us proud! If you want to become a doctor, wonderful! If you want to stay home with your children, do it! But understand that for any career choice, you will sacrifice something–money, family, holidays, personal freedom–the list is different for every choice. Decide ahead of time what you’re willing to sacrifice and what you’re not, and stick to your convictions. Then work hard, and make your dreams happen.
You will not feel happy every day of your life, even if you’re going after your dream. Learn to persevere–persevere in marriage, persevere in your job, persevere raising your children. Do not believe the lies of Hollywood; there is no ‘and they lived happily ever after.’ Achieving that ‘happily ever after’ takes hard work through many rough patches, but stick it out. Marriages worth something, careers worth something, families worth something all have time, sweat, and tears engrained in them.
Make good choices now; unfortunately, the choices you make now can and will affect you later. Wait to have sex. Even though our society is inundated with sexual images and has completely cheapened the act God gave us as a gift to share with our spouses, you don’t have to give in to the pressure. Any choice you make regarding an unwanted pregnancy will have lasting consequences. And while you should take the risk of pregnancy and STDs seriously, you should also take your emotional health seriously. Sex will bring you closer to the person with whom you’re sleeping. That person should be worthy of you–wait until you find that one person. Wait until you’re married. Sometimes old-fashioned ideas are actually good ideas.
If you want to buy something, save your money. If you don’t have the money, don’t buy the item. You do not have to have an iPhone or an iPad or designer clothes. Learn the difference between needs and wants now. Establishing a pattern of bad financial decisions now will limit your choices later.
Finally, figure out what you believe and why you believe it. Examine your faith. Your parents faith or lack thereof is not enough to get you by in life or an excuse for whether or not you believe, and these excuses will not count if you do stand before God one day. Of all the decisions you make, this decision is the most important. You will face many trials in life; to whom will you call out when they come? What is the purpose behind the decisions you make?
And if you make a decision to follow after God, then really follow! The world doesn’t need any more half-hearted disciples. The world needs more people who truly loves others, care for the poor and the underprivileged in society, and treat every human being with kindness and dignity.
And at this point, I would gently nudge my students awake, tell them to wipe the drool off their mouths, and remind them that I am always here to talk about any of these issues if they need me.
Linking up with Mama Kat for her Writer’s Workshop and Michelle for ‘Thought-provoking Thursday.’ Come back tomorrow and link up your own post for ‘Journeys.’ What life-journey are you currently taking?
9 thoughts on “Lessons for Students”
I love your measure of success!
Ah, how I wish kids would just listen. You've heard the saying: smart people learn from their mistakes, smarter people learn from others' mistakes. But when you are 16 you think you are a genius. I know I did. Great post. I too high school for a few years as well and I know just what you mean.
Loved your post! My favorite line: "Our society doesn’t like to talk about sacrifice, but it is a word you need to embrace" Kids (and adults) today think they can have it all, at the same time, for free. They forget how hard work pays off and that no talent, skill, or project develops overnight. For anyone. The journey really is the destination.
Gaby that is the rub, getting them to listen and really hear what you are saying. 😉
Nice Post Jennifer.
Sacrifice is definitely not in fashion anymore! I teach high school English in a Christian school and love my students. Emotion figures so strongly in their lives. I fear for the future some of them are forming . . . Timely post!
I loved it, that is exactly what our young people need to hear. I agree, I've shared with the girls in my Lacrosse days that for everything you get in life you have to give up something. At that age it usually is sitting on the couch eating potato chips or drugs. I've also constantly shared with them the best things they'll ever have in life are the things they have to work the hardest to get. The presents or things their parents or loved ones buy them pale in comparison to things they will sweat, bleed and cry over. The kids will listen to the people they really believe care about them, usually more than their parents at that age. That is exactly what our society needs… When can you start?
You should have given my graduation speech!
That was really good!
I am that high school English teacher, Jennifer! And I attempt to deliver those very messages every day…pray for me. I do love my students. Although I don't see fruit everyday, I just have to hold onto the fact that I'm sowing seeds and He's responsible to bring them to fruition. Love your teacher's heart!
I will pray for you! I know how challenging teaching is and how much we need good teachers like you! Thanks for sharing. 🙂