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After twelve years of school, it took me until now to figure out exactly why I had been there all those years. It was not to torture me by making me learn how to spell but to make sure that my classmates and I got the opportunity to make the most of ourselves. Opportunity that would come from learning as much as possible from books and beginning to see that the world focuses on more than just history and English . I owe my success in life and school to teachers who taught me to spell and to be respectful and responsible. Those quick to argue with me say that school's usefulness is shallow: deeper-real-life experiences truly educate a person. School should be seen not only as a place to study, but also as a place to learn about real life. People cannot depend on experience alone for education just as they cannot solely rely on information from school books to prepare them for life. The lessons, whether from a book or not, learned in school transcend the classroom to real life situations.
School, in essence, functions as a ladder to the future. The farther up the ladder a person goes, the more prepared for real life he will find himself. Respect is one of the keys to getting up the ladder and succeeding in many aspects of life. I grew up respecting my elders: whether it was my grandparents or the librarian, I have always had respect. The regard I have developed for teachers has come from knowing that I will need their help to make it through school and I can only get it by being respectful and polite.
To help students up the ladder, school indirectly teaches its students about respect. Although not found on the pages of any text book, learning lessons in respect can be very helpful. The idea of respect starts with teachers and often branches to the development of peer and self respect. Everyone has experienced a teacher that they couldn't stand and dreaded going to that class. It was times like that which challenged the respect that had begun to develop. In eight grade, my english teacher was one of the mose mean people I have ever met. I got a 0 on a quiz because I spelled one word wrong (it was not a spelling quiz). I hated going to her class, half the time, I just wanted to scream at her.
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Slowly I learned that different situations in school called for different levels of respect. These distinctions started appearing when, in kindergarten, I realized that I had to speak differently to my teacher than I did when playing with friends in the block center. Talking with peers certainly requires respect, but talking to a teacher requires more respect. The longer I was in school, the more I realized that I had learned to gain respect not only for teachers, but for my peers and myself. I learned to respect teachers as people who were trying to help me. Instead of hating a classmate because she did better on a test than I did, I respected her ability. And when I studied for ever and tried my hardest and still did badly on a test, I learned not to get down and to respect my effort. Developing esteem for my peers helped not only my relationships with them, but the way I felt about myself. I always found myslef jealous of the kids who did better than I did, but I learned that being mad at them only hurt me. I had to understand that I should respect their ability and have enough self-confidence to know that I could try a little harder and do just as well. Accepting the fact that I would not get an A on every assignment and might not be the teacher's favorite in every class, I began to respect the talent of those around me. By recognizing and respecting my ability and realizing that I could not always be the best at whatever I was doing, not being the best was easier to take.
I never questioned the notion that my teachers would be given the highest amount of respect. But as I got older, I began to carry that respect outside school. The fact that I developed a certain amount of regard for those around me has made it easier for me to deal with authority. I always dreaded going into my boss' office to talk to him. But then I realized that an instance like that paralleled the oral presentations in school that I used to hate giving. I could not stand talking in front of the class, but the more presentations I gave, the easier I found it. The more I went to see my boss, the easier it became and now I enjoy talking to him. I just had to respect his position and understand that he (or my teacher) was not trying to make me feel uncomfortable. Learning to respect my peers and realize that I could not always be the best at everything carried outside school as well. When I played sports, I wanted to be the one winning every race and I could not accept defeat. Bonnie was my swimming nemesis, all I wanted was to beat her. After four years, I finally accepted and respected that she was a better swimmer than I was. That made losing to her not as hard and beating her even more rewarding. But seeing the ability in others and respecting it made losing easier to handle.
Because a person cannot get through life only with respect, schools provide students with another lesson that can be applied in real life-responsibility. Aside from parents, teachers become the children's introduction to real introduce responsibility to children. Some children have chores and if they are not done, they do not get their allowance. But school becomes a much bigger responsibility because it has the potential to affect the student's life in and out of school. School acts not only as a way to create responsibility, but as a medium for students to practice what they have learned. In kindergarten, it was my responsibility to water the class plant and in fourth grade to wash the board every day after class. Every kid wanted to be the one the teacher asked to run an errand, but we soon realized that the teacher allotted the errands to the responsible kids. In fifth grade, the teacher chose one student to take the attendance to the office each morning. I started to notice that the teacher was continually picking the same students. She was giving then responsibility. I slowly began to understand the importance of responsibility and started to realize that I wanted it.
My understanding of and desire for responsibility grew as I went from elementary to middle to high school. When I went to middle school, it was my responsibility to catch the bus and remember to do all my work. Moving to high school, the responsibilities grew as did my capacity for knowledge. Not until my sophomore year in high school did I realized what I did for the next three years had the capability to affect everything I did after high school. The task of making responsible judgements about everything were left up to me. I was lucky to have teachers that trusted me and gave encouragement to make my classmates and I eager to earn more responsibility. By the time I graduated from high school, I wanted responsibility. It meant that someone had confidence in my abilities and that I had proven myself capable.
Like respect, the responsibility learned in school becomes very helpful in the outside world. Responsibility comes when you realize that many more of the important decisions are left up to you. That the first grade teacher that held your hand through everything no longer leads you. Whether your duty entails watering a plant or being responsible for a company's affairs, responsibility is a big task and must be earned. When a teacher delegates responsibility to a student, the student begins to realize that their hard work is being rewarded in the form of responsibility. This reward can lead the student to strive hard at work to attain responsibility from his boss. The student who never had to be reminded to do his homework will be the employee who never has to be reminded to turn in a report. Similarly, the fourth grader who tried so hard to win the science fair is more likely to become a doctor than the fourth grader who never cared about science.
Granted, this is not always the case, but someone who never works in school and takes no responsibility has almost no real chance of holding down or excelling at a meaningful job. When a person sees all his co-workers getting raises and more responsibility, he wants that and works harder to achieve it. Lack of responsibility makes it hard to keep jobs or make it in the outside world. I work as a secretary and when we hired a woman as another secretary, she could not handle responsibility. Not one felt comfortable giving her a job because they would just have to do it over themselves. Because she could not handle responsibility, she was fired. If people cannot trust you with responsibility, hoping for promotion at work and acquiring respect among peers becomes very difficult. Having people be confident in your abilities is key to succeeding. It is true that a person is responsible for his own actions, but with someone (like a teacher) to encourage him, the likelihood that he will look for more responsibility inside of school and out increases. I owe my teachers a lot for getting me where I am today by helping me learn responsibility and respect.
While I think school presents a very good way to prepare children about life, some people think that outside experience is more valuable than anything that can be found in school. A child can be taught how to act by reading examples in books and listening to a teacher, but it may not be until an actual situation presents itself that she discovers the proper way to act. A teacher can tell a student to respect authority figures, but it may not be until the man goes to work and has to deal with a boss that he learn exactly how to deal with authority. Regardless how many public speaking classes a person takes, he may still get nervous and not be prepared when it comes time to give that important speech to the president of his company.
School is to teach information: history, how to add and divide, and build a DNA chain. All these things help to get good grades on tests, but will they really help in the long run or are they as important as the lessons learned through experience? Book smarts intice the mind and become very important in making a person as smart as they can be. But for some people, the day to day learning experiences outside school become more useful than any day spent in a classroom. They argue that no text book can teach you how to deal with an unfair boss or how to manage things when a loved one is lost. Being a genius with studies shows tremendous accomplishment, but lacking the ability to communicate or deal with people, makes putting the knowledge to use and getting a job very hard.
I will admit that nothing I studied in school prepared me in the least for the terror I felt in my first interview and no teacher ever taught me how to deal with the emptiness I felt my first night at college. I also think that the lessons learned in everyday life are, in some cases, more useful and more likely to be remembered than how to take the square root of a number. The key comes in realizing the importance of taking the things learned in school and applying them to real life.
I think it is the goal of teachers and schools to prepare students with factual information in conjunction with real-life information (like handling responsibility, dealing with and gaining respect for authority) to help make it possible to make the most of oneself. School has helped me understand some of the tribulations life forces us to endure; when I fail a test that I studied eight hours for, it parallels me trying my hardest in an interview and then not getting the job. I am not saying that school alone can prepare anyone for life, but neither am I saying that experience alone can suffice. I would not be in college hoping to one day be a doctor if I had not studied hard in school and listened to the advice, criticism and praise of my teachers along the way.
School can sometimes be boring, I cannot argue with that, but it is key to developing not only book smarts, but also social skills. Confidence and learning how to gain and keep responsibility pave the road to success in the world outside school. Not appreciating the lessons learned in school is like rowing a boat with one oar just like trying to get through life with only the information found in school books leaves the rower an oar short. To prevent drowning in the waves of ignorance and knowledge, a person must have both experience and knowledge. By applying lessons learned in school to real life and vice versa, a person is more likely to work to his potential and succeed in life.