I Was a Terrible Student (A "Thank You" to My Teachers)

I was a terrible student.

I slept through class—sometimes accidentally, sometimes on purpose.

If I didn't think an assignment was important, I'd put minimal effort in. So…that was most assignments.

I never heard the directions the first time because I was always thinking about something else.

If a teacher tallied participation points, I would refuse to participate—on principle, was my reasoning.

Even in elementary school, when my art teacher noticed I was deviating from her directions, she tried to challenge me by saying, "I guess Paul's no longer the best artist in the class; it's (so-and-so)." From that point on, I disobeyed all of her directions. I don’t care what you think, lady, I’d say to myself.

I got kicked out of jazz band in high school. Who gets kicked out of jazz band?

Considering my track record as a student, it’s a little weird that I eventually became a teacher.

I chalk it up to a phrase used by one of my favorite people on the planet, author and all-around-good-person Bob Goff:

Immense patience.

There are so many people in my life, especially my teachers, who had immense patience with me.

There were teachers who saw through my immaturity, my apathy, my defense mechanisms, my frustration, my hormones, and taught me anyway. They encouraged me anyway. They pushed me anyway. Some teachers gave up on me, took it personally (you can always tell the ones who do this), and I don’t hold that against them—but I’m all the more grateful for the ones who didn’t write me off.

It takes immense patience to overlook all of the ways a kid isn’t meeting expectations and to give them what they need anyway. It takes immense patience to trust that what you’re teaching a kid will make some kind of difference down the road, even if you never see the results yourself.

I’m thankful for all of the teachers I’ve had—the ones in classrooms, the ones on a football field, the ones in churches, the ones in music studios, the ones at the dinner table—who stuck with me, who gave when I wasn’t in the mood to receive, and who made such an impact on me that when the fog of my teenage years finally cleared, I found myself wanting to be a teacher, too.

Thank you for the immense patience you showed me.

I hope I can do the same for those under my care now.