A picture of a stack of books, a shirt on a hanger and a ruler

From the moment we step into our kindergarten classrooms to the moment we cross the stage to receive our high school or college diplomas, our teachers educate us every step of the way.

They might teach us math or creative writing. They might show us how to treat others with compassion or how to practice critical thinking. No matter the lesson, they impact our lives both inside and outside of the classroom.

No matter the lesson, they impact our lives both inside and outside of the classroom.

In honor of World Teacher Day, here are a few lessons I’ve learned from teachers (aside from reading and arithmetic) that apply to everyday life:

Show compassion.

Sure, our parents teach us to say “please” and “thank you” and treat others with respect, but our teachers witness our interactions with our peers in our most formative years. When we played on the playground, they were there to tell us to share and take turns. They taught us patience when waiting for recess, to not cut others in line at snack time and not to take others’ things.

As we get older, we begin to put those lessons on compassion into daily practice. Holding doors open for strangers. Showing patience for others, perhaps someone who is having a bad day. Sharing with others—whether it be sharing time when speaking in class, sharing goods or supplies or making space for others. Having compassion for others is a fundamental lesson that shows up constantly.

Always be a team player.

Working with others in collaborative ways, like on group projects or playing sports, prepares us for the workplace. For the entirety of our lives, we’ll have to work with others. Whether we’re bouncing ideas off coworkers or working with a team on a project, the teamwork skills that our teachers instill in us from an early age constantly come into play.

Having to work with people I don’t necessarily get along with taught me how to navigate difficult situations well. Working in positive, collaborative environments taught me how to build with others and how to do my part in the assembly line process in order for the group to succeed.

Don’t be afraid to take risks.

This is the greatest lesson I have ever learned. I’ll never forget my high school English teacher telling me to take risks in my writing. He wanted me to take grammatical risks, to break the rules and to make challenging assertions that were outside of my critical thinking comfort zone.

Although at first it was difficult and took a lot of workshopping, rough drafts and editing, it paid off. I’m a better student, writer and person because of it.

Not only do I pursue risk academically within essays or assignments, but I also take risks by stepping out of my comfort zone through pitching ideas to bosses, voicing questions or thoughts that I’m unsure about and applying for jobs that I think may be out of reach. I’ll never know what I can achieve if I don’t take risks and test the waters.

I’ll never know what I can achieve if I don’t take risks and test the waters.

Learn to receive feedback and criticism.

In the beginning, peer edits are a writer’s worst nightmare. It can be embarrassing to have your mistakes pointed out by your friends in front of the class. It can also be disheartening when your teacher calls attention to your flaws in their notes.

Even in college, peer reviews in front of the class—whether it’s a presentation, paper, article or project—still can be nerve-racking. Instead of feeling embarrassed or disappointed by the critiques, I’ve learned how to take them in stride and improve. Whether it’s feedback from a teacher, a conversation with my boss on how I can improve or debating with classmates who have different views, such questioning and critique of my thinking ultimately will make me better at whatever the thing is. I’ll come out of the other side with the knowledge of how to make improvements, which will only make me stronger and more successful in the future.

Teachers and mentors teach us foundational life skills. It begins the moment we step into the classroom and is truly never-ending. We are constantly learning and growing, and our teachers are the ones who set us up for success for the rest of our lives.

What are some life lessons your teachers taught you? Are there one or two teachers who left a lasting and positive impression?

Image via Chaunté Vaughn, Darling Issue No. 15

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