Generally when I write columns I try to keep the content for readers of all ages, or I lean into the adult ages around election time. This column, however, is for the local students as they move back into the school year with all the busyness, rehearsals, practices, plays and concerts, games and tournaments, and of course, homework. Giving up the freedom of summer can be a downer. Believe it or not, the adults in your life, teachers included, would rather have that kind of free time as well, and they remember what it was like to have it when they were younger. Just like your parents and teachers do day in and day out, this school year is going to be work.
My 8th grade history teacher, Ms. Zeis, scolded our class one day because we weren’t taking ourselves seriously
“School is your job,” she said sternly. “You show up in the morning with your talents, you put them, and your mind, to use, your homework is your work, and then you show up the next day. The work isn’t always fun, but that’s not the point. The point is you’re becoming better, and the world will be better as a result.”
My exact memory of what she said essentially starts and stops with, “School is your job,” but the short rant included fragments of the other comments, or at least covered the same points. I struggled to internalize that lecture well into college, and still do to this day, even as a post-college employed adult. But words from teachers like her stay with me to this day because they echoed a truth in my life back then, and a truth that stayed with me in other endeavors and tasks.
Some of you won’t be as good as your peers in certain areas. It’s a reality that doesn’t change the older you get. My struggle with math didn’t end after I graduated from Charlotte High School, indeed, I’m probably worse at math now as I’ve ever been. While some of my best friends scored top marks and even went to math competitions, I spent hours on math homework or procrastinated myself into panic attacks. Some of you may experience the same feelings in math or other subjects. Don’t give up. School is your job, one that you don’t have much say in. It’s not fun, and some of you will have to watch your peers succeed with ease while you struggle.
But there’s twisted comfort in most things in life, and the same is true of school. While you drudge through school now, you’re preparing yourself for jobs, careers, tasks, and projects down the road that will earn you money, provide you a house, give you platforms to share your ideas, and maybe even make you famous. Suffer now, enjoy the good things later. Another twisted comfort that got me through was knowing I was better at some things than my peers. That’s not an invitation for gloating, but rather an invitation to find value in the gifts you do have. School won’t always utilize the finer points of your talents and gifts, or even engage some of them at all, but that’s also part of the point. School isn’t just about teaching the subjects, it’s about teaching life endurance- bringing your best to something even when it’s challenging or boring.
Maybe someday, if you’re like me, you’ll walk back into your middle school or high school and have a sense of hostile nostalgia. You’ll feel in your bones that you never really wanted to return to that place, but still you end up thankful for the time you spent there. You’ll remember the harsh encouragement from teachers, the difficult days of subjects you still don’t care about, and the first days back from summer break. I can’t promise you’ll look back and feel fondly, but I can guarantee those experiences in school are making you stronger. Enjoy the school year with it’s challenges, it’s successes, it’s failures, and math homework.