Lesson’s I’ve Learned…
As I sit at my desk and am contemplating the start of my Master’s degree, I try to break down all the lesson’s I’ve learned throughout elementary, middle, high school and then even on into college.
Elementary was the easiest — the basics. Simple things I would need to know about life, like how to work in a team, how to think for myself and most importantly how to appreciate the small things. But two teachers really stand out, Mrs. R and Mr. V.
Granted, I was not the best student in class, but I tried incredibly hard and managed to pass. Math never came easy to me, I struggled and still struggle to this day with algebra, trig and whatnot. But I loved art, music, history and creative writing. Both Mrs. R and Mr. V saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself until 20+ years later — it doesn’t matter what the critics say, its how I feel and know I did my best.
Mrs R. was a wonderful teacher with a very unorthodox approach which meant there was not a single desk in the room. We had couches, chairs, group tables, a lot of self-teaching and self-discovery. I honestly didn’t think I learned anything that year, but in the end I learned more about myself than anything else. I preferred to sit at a table with a lot of books and pour over research. I loved playing “Oregon Trail” and actually writing a report on our progress through the game. I needed the quiet of the library on certain days to grasp at the straws of math that plagued me, but loved the chaos that ensued during our English lessons.
Mrs. R had the most caring soul I had met for teacher. She genuinely cared for each and every one of her students. I remember completely failing a math test after I had studied for hours on end the previous three nights. She sat with me in the hall as she broke down each problem until I understood it and let me retake the test. She called her students her “children”, and that we were. She left me with lessons that have shaped me to be the person I am today. To never let a box define your thinking, be creative. Never let a “no” be a final answer — but a stepping stone to a yes. Be your authentic self at all times; and finally never, ever give up.
Mr. V took a different approach — make it fun, yet structured. As he retired earlier this year, I sat and tried to remember everything he taught me. Unlike Mrs. R, we had desks, but our days weren’t rigid. They were filled with class discussions, group projects and much needed energy burning extra afternoon recesses. We looked at real world problems for the time and tried to come up with real world solutions. We gathered information, formed our hypothesis, tested our plans and made adjustments as we went.
We learned from our forefathers, our teachers, fellow students, and even parents. We learned from our animal friends, the dirt under our feet and even the skies above. We tried to make a difference, well as much as any 5th grader could.
Thanks to Mr. V, I now listen to the details (thanks to every Encyclopedia Brown book); observe the smallest things. I try to understand the world around me and how even our smallest interaction can make a difference and be the difference. That we, as a human race, need to take care of each other and our surroundings.
Elementary was an impressionable time for everyone. It’s when we became immersed into a mini-society, learning valuable life lessons that have remained through adulthood. And for many, it has proven to be a never-ending learning process; though you’re hopefully better at it now than you were as an 8-year-old. You can always thank your favorite teachers for that. So, thank you Mrs. R and Mr. V — thank you for the helping me become the person I am today. A fearless creative with a passion for research, user experience and of course improving what is around us.