The Most Important Lesson

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by pupismyname

I have a question – What was the most important lesson you learned as a kid? How and where did it happen?

I thought about this for quite a while and realized for me, it happened on the golf course.

The most important lesson I learned was the concept of mentor ship, and my affinity for working with young people. I was 17 years old, and our local golf course no longer had a Junior golf coordinator. To make sure we still had a golf program, I took the job on and with some help from one of our Senior golfers, we did the best we could to keep the program going. With no club pro, I often ended up on the driving range working with some of our younger players trying my best to coach them about the game and teach them the proper way to swing the club.I wasn’t a qualified golf pro, but I was there and willing to help.

I remember one day specifically I was working on the driving range with a young guy who was having trouble getting the ball off the ground. We worked on his stance, adjusted his grip a little and made sure he was keeping his head down. All of a sudden, he caught one perfectly and the ball went soaring into the air a good 100 yards down the driving range. He swung around quickly, with his jaw dropped open and yelled “Did you see that!?” I remember right at that moment, I was hooked. I had known for some time I wanted to go into education, but right then and there I knew I was making the right decision.

When I think of a few of the other big lessons I learned as a kid: Leadership, Teamwork, Responsibility, Honesty, most of them did not occur in a Math or English class, they happened outside of the classroom. I wonder how many people really made the decision about their future career while sitting in a classroom? When it came to leadership and teamwork, I learned about that on the basketball court. Its often my argument when I defend the importance of school sports, that I learned a great deal because of my time on a school sports team. When it came to responsibility, I learned it working at my family’s restaurant, especially during those times when I got to help my Grandmother out.

So what am I saying? Well first of all, this is proof that learning occurs all the time and everywhere. That is a good thing, and something we as educators should embrace and show our students that learning isn’t just something that happens at school. The other thing it shows, in my opinion, is that we are spending too much time on concepts and skills that maybe don’t apply to our students future as much as other lessons would. I know this is when someone then says “How can we prepare our students for a future we can’t predict?”. I don’t care what the future holds, I can’t for one second believe that lessons like leadership, responsibility, teamwork and honesty will ever become obsolete. If we start looking to incorporate this kind of thinking into our teaching we will start to see more of a connection between what we teach and what our students need in their futures.

In David Wees‘ blog post from yesterday he referenced a line from a book by Paul Lockhart entitled “A Mathematician’s Lament”.

‘I don’t see how it’s doing society any good to have its members walking around with vague memories of algebraic formulas and geometric diagrams, and clear memories of hating them.’ (emphasis mine) ~ Paul Lockhart

I believe the same could be said for memories of grammar and punctuation, memorizing historical dates, or writing chemical formulas. When our lessons speak to character, they last a lifetime, and not because our students will look back with disdain but rather because they may have learned their most important lesson from us.


3 thoughts on “The Most Important Lesson

  1. I really like your point about skills which we know won’t change, and how important they are for the future. I completely agree that what have traditionally been “soft skills” like “leadership, responsibility, teamwork and honesty” are really crucial skills, and more important than the content we teach. I would add compassion and empathy to your list though. Last night, when Horton was injured by Rome in the Bruins/Canucks game, when he came off the ice and all of the players, on both benches, were banging their hockey sticks, I really liked the message it sent: we understand your pain, and hope you are okay.

  2. Jesse,
    I agree that the timeless skills of leadership, responsibility, teamwork and honesty are transferable to any future for our students. One of the reasons I became a teacher did, in fact, come from the classroom, but it wasn’t the material that hooked me. My high school English teacher demanded all of those golden qualities we are talking about, but the key factor was that he modeled them 1st. I decided that was the environment I wanted in my classroom, he gave us everything he had and demanded nothing less in return. Furthermore, I was lucky enough to have a baseball coach who also demonstrated all of those qualities. He wasn’t just teaching us skills on the field, he was teaching us how to be good people. If there is one thing I want my students to remember about me, it’s that I tried to prepare them to be great people. Sorry for the long comment!

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