"The classroom should be an entrance to the world,
not an escape from it."
Welcome, class! I know this is not the first class you've taken relating classroom learning to the learning we do in the real, adult world, but, trust me, this class is different. Today you've entered in the classroom of Positively Present, where I will be sharing with you my insights about life. These insights might be no more profound than other insights that you've read before (and they may even be less profound), but they will definitely be more personal. With each lesson, I will be sharing a personal story relating to a lesson I learned when I was in school. Not only will you be reviewing some very important life lessons, but you'll also be learning a little more about me -- Dani! I know, I know -- you're so excited you can't stand it. Pull up a chair. Grab a notebook and a pen. And get ready to learn!
Lesson #1: It's Okay to Get an F
For those of you who haven't realized it yet, I'm a pretty smart girl. Just kidding...sort of. Anyway, I probably didn't get a grade below a B until I was in high school. I was good at getting good grades and I prided myself on that. But as I got older and got put into more advanced classes, I found that getting A's and the occasional B wasn't as easy as it had been before. Sometimes I struggled (especially when it came to math...UGH). Sometimes I got C's and D's and even the occasional F. I was still smart. I still am smart. But I wasn't perfect. I realized that grades weren't everything. I did the best I could and focused on the subjects that really interested me (like English and art). I got a math tutor and did what I could to get decent grades. Even though I didn't always ace it, I still got into a good college. I got a degree. I got my Master's degree. I learned that A's aren't everything. Sure, it's important to give it your best shot, but stressing about getting a perfect score every time is NOT worth it. Same goes for life. You have to give it your best try, do what you can to make the best of your abilities, and recognize that you're not perfect and that's A okay!
Lesson #2: Always Do Your Homework
Being the nerdy little girl that I was, I always did my homework. (Okay, there may have been a few times when I didn't hand something in but those were rare). Doing homework, as obnoxious as it seemed at the time, really did serve a purpose. Homework reinforces what you learned that day and reminds you of the lessons when you are away from the classroom. Practicing what you've learned is certainly a great way to keep the lessons fresh in your mind and show you new and different ways to apply these lessons. In the real work, "homework" symbolizes two things. First, doing your homework is a way to reapply the lessons you've learned to other situations in your life. Did you find a great way to handle an argument with a loved one? Great! Use those skills the next time you're faced with a quarrelsome coworker. What you learn needs to be used so that you don't forget it. Doing homework means practicing what you've learned. Secondly, doing your homework can refer to doing your research. When you're about to encounter a new situation (a job interview, a social event, a new task at work, etc.) do some research. Sometimes diving head first into something without knowing any information can be a great learning experience, but often it can be a complete disaster. Taking a little bit of time to research can save you a LOT of time in the long run.
Lesson #3: Reading is Awesome
I don't know when exactly I discovered reading, but it really was probably the best day of my life. I cannot IMAGINE life without books and newspapers and magazines and poems and stories and letters. My life pretty much revolves around words and I am pretty much in love with reading. While other kids fantasized about recess, I longed for a time of day called "Silent Reading." During this time everyone would read for about an hour (which, I believe, was supposed to calm everyone down from their post-recess highs). I loved Silent Reading. While other kids would grab a book off the classroom bookshelf and slump grumpily into their seats, waiting for the hour to end, I would merrily pull my latest read out of my bag and enjoy my favorite hour of the day. I understand that some people don't like to read (though I'm not always sure I understand why), but it really, really is awesome. There are so many things you can read about and every time I read a new book I learn something new. It constantly amazes me that people can write down their thoughts, put them in a book, and I am able to share in them. There is nothing more awesome to me than reading and I thank my parents for supporting my reading habit and the teachers (who ever they might be) who taught me how to master this fabulous art.
Lesson #4: Raise Your Hand Often
Yup, I'll admit it. I'm a hand-raiser. While I'm not one of those eager-to-participate types waving their hand obnoxiously in the air, I definitely like to have my say. When I was younger, I used to be nervous when it came to hand raising. I'd think to myself, "What if I get the answer wrong? What if the teacher doesn't like my ideas?" but as I grew older (and braver) I realized that trying was enough. You don't always have to be right (and it's usually pretty obnoxious if you are). You don't always have to have the most brilliant ideas. You just have to be there, get involved, and join in. Participation in life is important for a number of reasons. One, it keeps you focused on what's going on around you and what you're learning. Two, it helps you to think more about your own ideas and thoughts. And, three, it reminds you that your opinions, thoughts, answers matter. When you speak up and share with other people, you are telling yourself that you matter. You are confirming that your voice is worth being heard. Now, in the real world, it's not always easy to speak up. Sometimes it can be very, very intimidating to share your ideas with a room full of executives or experts. But it's very important that you do so. I'm not an expert in the field I work in. In fact, I've only been doing it for a few years and have no formal training. But I speak up. I share ideas with the top executives at my company and my ideas are not only heard but they are implemented. Now, not every idea I have is a gem, but a lot of them are pretty darn good. People like my ideas. Friends come to me for advice. Coworkers ask for my help. If I sat back quietly waiting to be heard no one would have any idea that I have opinions or ideas or even thoughts. You have to speak up in life. Tell people what you want. Tell people what you think. Share your ideas and you'll be surprised by how fulfilling it is.
Lesson #5: Sit in the Front Row
Ah, the nerd alert detector is going off now in your mind isn't it? You're probably reading this and thinking, "Sit in the front row? No way! That's for losers." Okay, yeah, losers sit in the front row. You know who else sits in the front row? Learners. It's pretty hard to keep your focus when you're all the way in the back of the room. Trust me. For years and years I was "too cool" to sit in the front. When I walked in the classroom on the first day I made a beeline for the back of the room, where I could kick my feet up on my backpack and stare off into space, daydreaming about being anywhere but there. Did I learn anything back then? I'm sure I did, but not nearly as much as when I realized that I was wasting my time in the back and relocated to front and center. My parents spent tons of money on my high school education and I spent a good portion of the time I was in school sulking around, being, literally "too cool for school." Once I got to college, I realized that they way I was when I was a kid -- a determined, studious little girl -- was a much better way to get the most out of my experiences in classrooms. I didn't always sit in the front row, but, for the most part, I looked for a seat that would force me to pay attention, to be present. There are lessons to be learned all around us, every day, so ask yourself, "Am I sitting in the front row? Am I being present for this lesson?"
Lesson #6: Make Friends, Not Enemies
Here it is...the big one...I was a bitch in high school. And I mean bitch. I was mean to girls I didn't like. I was mean to girls who weren't nice to my little sister. I was gossipy and narrow-minded and overly concerned with my appearance. I thought I was cooler than everyone (except my friends, of course, who were just as cool as me). I thought money and men were the most important things in the world. I was, in a word, naive. I had no concept of what the real world was and, instead of making loads and loads of close friends, I pushed people away from me because, for some crazy reason, I believed they were beneath me. For the most part, the friendships I had were based on mutual disapproval of "uncool" people and a burning desire to be both wealthy and wanted. (I know now, thank god, that those two things are not the most desirable qualities to possess.) When I look back on those days, I realize that I missed out on a lot of great people. I know there were some great people from my past that I just ignored (or, worse, berated) and, sadly, I missed out on a lot of potentially great friendships. Now that I'm older I realize that I have a choice. I can continue to be a narrow-minded, mean-spirited girl OR I can open up my heart and mind to people and, as a result, experience new, exciting, and different forms of friendship. When it's put this way, there seems to be no more obvious choice. Make friends, not enemies. In the long run, you'll be much, much better off.
Lesson #7: Teachers Aren't Always Right
Sorry, little sis (she's a teacher), but teachers aren't always right. Teachers have a lot to share with the world -- A LOT. I think they hold one of the most amazing jobs on the planet because they have the ability to impact the lives of so many in such powerful, lasting ways. They have knowledge and training and classrooms full of books. They are, to put it bluntly, awesome. However, as wonderful and powerful as they are, teachers aren't always right. Teachers are human. They can make mistakes. They can use bad judgment. They can be viewing situations and lessons from a biased viewpoint. They might be knowledgeable on a subject, but they aren't perfect. Growing up, I pretty much thought teachers were the best people I'd met since my parents. They knew so much. They were friendly. They liked me and my hard-working, scholarly abilities. They encouraged me. Really, I loved them. However, the older I got, the more I realized that they didn't always have the answers. They more I learned, the more I realized that some of my ideas were just as good as theirs. This is true in the adult world as well. Just because someone has more experience, is older than you, or holds a higher position doesn't mean that person is right. S/he may have great ideas (and, yes, experience can be really valuable), but no matter who you are, what position you're in, or what you know, you're NOT perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has biases (though some try harder not to than others). Remember that the next time your boss or your parent says something with absolute certainty.
Lesson #8: Embarrassing Moments Happen
Let's face it. We've all had our share of embarrassing moments. When I was in high school, I got in trouble pretty frequently. There's nothing about being lectured to about your behavior (especially some of my behavior) that makes you feel confident and proud. Walking down a hall knowing that everyone knows you're in trouble sucks. Likewise, the smaller embarrassments aren't so fun either. For example, having the gym teacher tell my gym class that I must touch the ball at least once before the class is over or else we won't be able to leave the gym was not one of my finest moments. (In case you didn't know, gym class is my arch nemesis.) Or, looking back at some of my outfits and makeup choices, I feel mortified. What was I thinking? (These embarrassments are a bit better because I only felt them in retrospect.) I've had zits. I've had falls down flights of stares in front of room full of cute boys. I've stuttered and stumbled and said things that made my face turn a bright shade of crimson. High school, especially, seems to be the world's favorite time to embarrass us. But, let's be real here: it happens. We all have to face embarrassing moments every once and awhile. Sure, it sucks. But you have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move on. One of the most important things I've learned is that everyone has embarrassing moments. It doesn't matter who you are. You have, at some point, been embarrassed. (And, yes, this makes me feel better about my own moments o' shame.)
Lesson #9: Work Smarter, Not Harder
This is a phrase that I hear one particular coworker of mine use a lot and I think it's a great one. When I was a kid, I used to use every moment I had to do little bits of homework or reading assignments so that when I got home I would have time to do the things I reallywanted to do (like reading and writing, haha). I'm an extremely organized person and I work smart, doing what I can to find the best ways to get something done as thoroughly and efficiently as possible. When I was a kid, I was always organizing things, keep things in tidy piles and color-coded bins. I was always looking for new ways to do something as fast as I could (this mostly has to do with my astoundingly impatient nature, but we'll save that topic for another post...). To this day, I still believe that there are TONS of great ways to work as hard as other people but in a lot less time. You have to be organized. You have to be focused. You have to be ready to really put your all into what you're doing. But, when it comes down to it, wouldn't you rather work really smart for a little bit of time rather than work hard for a long period of time? Give some thought to how you can be more efficient, how you can work smarter rather than harder, and you'll be shocked and how much more enjoyable your life becomes.
Lesson #10: Take Good Notes (and Share!)
I'm a big fan of note taking. Perhaps this is because my memory is terrible or because I love writing, but I've always found that no matter what I'm doing or what I'm trying to learn, taking notes is the way to go. In college, I even used to take notes twice, handwriting the notes in class and then typing them up and expanding on them once I got back to my room. (Excessive? Yes. Effective? Absolutely.) For me, I'd rather not worry about remembering things later and I know that if I write something down I can just go back and look at it when I need to. As an adult, I find this very effective as well. When I want to remember something I've learned, I write it down. I write about it in my journal or in a letter or, these days, in my blog. Once I write down information, I'm freeing up my mind for more information. It's sort of a release of learned stuff in a way. And, just like I did in high school and college, I think it's really important to share your notes. Some might say, "Well, I did all of the work, learning this stuff and writing it down. I'm not going to share it with you, you little freeloader!" but that's not how I think about it. If you learned something, took notes on it, and gained value from it, why wouldn't you want to share it with someone else? In a way, I feel like that's what I'm doing here with this blog. I'm taking my notes on life and I'm sharing them with you. And, you know what? It feels good to share!
You might have been groaning when you saw the title of this post, thinking, oh geez, who hasn't done a post on "the classroom of life," but I really do hope you gained some insights from these lessons (or, at the very least, a little more insight into who Dani is...). I'd love to hear about your life lessons. We've all walked down slightly different paths and we all have something to share. Take a moment to think about these questions:
What have you learned so far in your life?
Did what you learned in school impact your adult life?