How does a person become wise? It is both a process and a result. It is a process because it takes time to become wise. It is a result because we learn and become wise by the results we see in decisions that we and other people make.
—Charles F. Stanley, “Acquiring Wisdom”
When I look back on my first year of teaching, I realize just how miraculous my survival was. I was 22, barely older than my eldest senior (who was 19 and pushing 20 by graduation). Armed only with a college degree and a solid grasp of literature—and no small amount of moxie—I taught six classes a day. I had to learn how to communicate with students in a way that was fun yet firm. I also had to figure out how to work with fellow teachers, administrators, and parents (the most demanding group of all), and I rarely did it perfectly. In fact, when I remember the mistakes I made, I can only cringe.
I was busy all the time—running from one class to the next, attending endless meetings, and doing all the work multiple daily lesson plans required. I graded on my lunch break, and more often than not work came home with me on the weekends. So small talk wasn’t high on my priority list, and I hated having to watch my words or massage certain people’s egos. I had things to do and places to be, after all.
Let’s just say I could be a little brusque.
I came to understand I wasn’t wasting anything when I made time for others. I learned how to put my to-do list aside for a moment and receive the person in front of me with kindness and patience.
But over time, as I watched older, seasoned teachers manage to do it all (and get better results), I came to understand I wasn’t wasting anything when I made time for others. I learned how to put my to-do list aside for a moment and receive the person in front of me with kindness and patience. And I began to improve both in and out of the classroom. In the good decisions others made—and I emulated—I discovered the words of Proverbs 3:13-14 were true for many things both spiritual and practical: “Blessed is the person who finds wisdom, and one who obtains understanding. For her profit is better than the profit of silver, and her produce better than gold.”
I’m no longer an English teacher, but the lessons I learned in the classroom have stuck with me. Yet even now I don’t always manage to do things with perfect forbearance and grace, because I’m still on the way to true wisdom. But I’m proud of how far I’ve come. And one day I hope to be an example to someone who, like me, needed a little help finding the way.