Last week, Greg, the boys, and I were honored to spend time celebrating a new marriage of one of my past students. Surrounded by so many individuals who were influential in my early career, I couldn’t help but be transported back in time.
I stepped into the classroom right out of college. And, when I say right out of college, I mean, right out of college. I graduated Ohio State a couple of quarters early on a Sunday in December, and I started my position less than 24 hours later. I spent three days in the classroom before taking off the end of the week to get married. If you’re going through some life changes, why not do them all at once? Although my undergraduate education and a variety of internships had done a remarkable job of preparing me to teach, it was obvious I still had a lot to learn.
I walked into a less-than-ideal situation. The previous teacher was one of those larger than life legends in the community and across the state. Tragically, he passed away unexpectedly, leaving a void in many hearts and in a classroom he had served for decades. And, now, fresh out of college, I was going to take his position and attempt to win these teenagers over.
I could write volumes about the struggles I faced as the new kid on the block, yet in all honesty, I’ve set many of those challenges to the back of my mind. Last week, back in the midst of the people who supported me and walked alongside me in that period of my life, I didn’t remember the times I ended the day in tears or the frustrations I felt when I didn’t feel like I’d ever make progress. Instead, I remembered the kind words of encouragement from parents and the feelings of gratitude to students who helped me win over their peers. Above all, I felt blessed, for I was reminded of something incredible: each experience we face in life, good or bad, molds us into a stronger person.
That’s like the expression I once heard someone say: every seven years, we are essentially a new person. All of the cells in our body are replaced by new ones, and we literally are no longer the same person we were seven years ago. I believe the same thing applies to our hearts and minds. Like modeling clay, we are constantly growing and developing into new people. The trick is to allow ourselves to be molded in a positive direction and to never harden our hearts and minds to the people and events we encounter.
I know some of my former students are reading this, and to you, I say thank you. I am grateful for the time we spent together, and I cherish the memories, both good and bad. Although I’m no longer in the classroom, I truly believe because of that experience, I am a better version of myself. While I was the teacher, it was you who were teaching me the virtues of patience, grace, preparedness, and so many others. I may only pray that I, too, helped mold you into the adults you are today.
Experience… it’s the teacher of all things.