I’ve thought about this prompt throughout the day and I don’t think there is just one important lesson of my childhood and consequently not just one teacher. I do believe it takes a village to raise a child. And as Maya Angelou said, “At our best, we are all teachers.”
My first teachers were my parents. They taught me many lessons but the big three are:
- The importance of hard work.
- That I could accomplish anything I wanted as long as I never gave up on myself.
- The value of money.
Both my parents were hard workers and they expected that their children work hard at school work and chores. They also never discouraged us from trying things that might be difficult. Difficulty was meant to make you strong. And in spite of being one of four daughters raised in the 1960s and 1970s, I never recall my parents telling any of us we couldn’t achieve something because we were girls.
We definitely lived a typical working class lifestyle for that time period – money and the hard work it took to earn it was valued. It was not automatic that if we wanted something we bought it. We were taught the value of looking at prices in the grocery store, the department store and anywhere else we might be making a purchase. We were introduced to the concept of saving for big purchases at a young age and using vehicles like layaway and savings accounts (we all had our own savings accounts by the time we were in elementary school). The financial lessons and life lessons my parents taught me have served me well.
There were other teachers in my life. A few from grammar school stand out in my memory. Through a horrible mistake, I learned the importance of never passing someone else’s work off as your own. The teacher was my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Eleanor Shannon. I had a book report that needed to be done in the form of a book cover with an essay. I wrote the essay but I had my older sister help me with the artwork. She drew the horse for the front cover, I colored it in and did the lettering. Mrs. Shannon loved the report so much she displayed it on the bulletin board behind her desk. Several months went by and the art teacher needed someone in my class to draw a horse. You guessed it – Mrs. Shannon called on me. I had to admit in front of the entire fifth grade class that I could not draw a horse on my own. My book report was immediately taken down and I was reprimanded. Trust me when I say, I never did that again. I was a painfully shy child and the public humiliation was enough to drill that lesson in to my memory. I was miffed that Mrs. Shannon didn’t appreciate that I came up with the concept and the words. Ironically, one of the behaviors that irks me in the workplace is when someone takes credit for other people’s work. I guess they weren’t fortunate enough to have a Mrs. Shannon in their life.
If my fourth grade teacher Mrs. Margaret Bennett taught me and my classmates nothing else she taught us about RESPONSIBILITY. The word was featured prominently on the bulletin board in her classroom and she taught us the definition and illustrated it in practical use throughout the school year. She rewarded us when we behaved responsibly and pointed out when we didn’t. If we forgot homework, left a book at home or forgot to study for a test she was quick to point out that we were big girls and boys and that it was now our responsibility to take care of these things.
My first grade teacher, Mrs. Marguerite Owens, taught me a lesson in reading and storytelling. By teaching me how to read and write and the value of both in life she opened up a whole new world to my young eyes and embarked me on a lifetime of learning.
As an adult, in addition to the lessons my parent and teachers taught me I hope I teach the children in my life the importance of patience, respect and loyalty.