10 Things I Learned About Life From Teachers and Mentors

There are many things I could write about, but these are the ones that stick near and dear to my heart, because many of them were taught to me when I was about to graduate — whether from high school, college or graduate school. In all three cases, the lessons came not from the texts or research, but from encounters with people who really loved what they taught, and wanted more than anything else to convey something of that love to others who might do the same.

It didn’t matter what the person taught or didn’t teach. It mattered who they were.

Lesson #10. “Don’t get too hung up on how people are, because they will grow, they will change, and so will you.” —Mr. John Conway upon my grousing about boys, friends, and high school.

Lesson #9. “Expect to make friends wherever you go, and be a good one to all you encounter.” —A brilliant teacher at Lamar University, a 25-year veteran of special education who taught Teaching Reading, one of the last classes I took for my masters, and one of the best teachers I ever met. I wish I could recall her name.

Lesson #8. “Read everything and more, but don’t be pompous about it. Just read.” —Jean Rodes, Professor at Saint Mary’s College on referencing anything else other than what is assigned.

Lesson #7. “When things get too rough, read Dickens and eat ice cream.” —Professor Liz Noel, (advice when I caught chicken pox, and another professor assigned Camus’ The Plague).

Lesson #6. “All behavior is communication, no matter how old you are, no matter your condition, no matter your level of education, no matter your status in life. Your job, as a teacher, is to figure out what is being communicated and respond.” —Professor Sandra Einsel of Boston College on Human Development and Handicapping Conditions.

Lesson #5. “Wrap a line around your think (whether drawing or writing).” —Sister Kelly at Saint Mary’s College, on what creating, whether with words or otherwise, is.

Lesson #4. “You will never be as good as Yeats. Yates Maybe.” —Professor Max Westler at Saint Mary’s College on humility in the arts.

Lesson #3. “A world defined only by science and math is inherently reductive, I wouldn’t want to live in it… and neither should you.” —Fantasy and Philosophy Professor Sayer, posing a philosophical question to the class, based on the books we had read.

Lesson #2. “Push through the pain. It’s only temporary.” —Kick Boxing Instructor, Jill (lost her last name to time), because she never let me slack off.

Lesson #1. “How are you going to prevent yourself from being seduced by academia?” my professor at the University of Texas asked. “I think my husband and son will handle that problem,” I told him.


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