This teacher’s appreciation week I thank the teachers who taught me what can’t be found in books. Life lessons I’ll not soon forget and the ones I’m still learning, all of which apply to today’s farm/food conversation.
Life Lesson #1: It is okay to be ignorant; it is not okay to stay that way.
My freshman year of high school I met Mr. Simpson. He had reigned over the Franklin Center science department for years . . . as in he taught my dad the finer points of science. Years.
Mr. Simpson knew his stuff. He cut no slack for anyone and demanded more than the best from everyone. Our first day of biology, Mr. Simpson told us we were ignorant.
After letting that sink in, he finished his observation, “It is okay to be ignorant; it is not okay to stay that way.”
Life Lesson #2: Assume nothing.
Mr. Simpson, I think, thrived on shock value. One day he walked across the hall and cut the math teacher’s tie in two because a) he didn’t like it and b) the math class was being very disruptive, noise spilling into the hall. The whole incident rendered most of the school silent.
One afternoon, we entered the science room to see the word “ass” printed on the chalkboard. Stunned, but curious we waited for the rest of the lesson.
“Assume nothing,” he said. “It makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me”.”
Life Lesson #3: Own it.
Anyone who knows me knows my story includes the blue corduroy jacket of the FFA. I never would have worn the jacket had Mr. Pettit, the ag teacher and FFA advisor not plucked me from freshman study hall and invited me to the national FFA convention. Mr. Pettit became more than a teacher; he was family, but the kind of family I feared to disappoint, even more so than my parents.
So, my senior year I’m juggling a lot of responsibilities. One particular week included homecoming activities, volleyball practices and games, normal homework assignments, FFA chapter visits and an FFA leadership event called LTS (Leadership Training School). Of course, I had my hands in all of it.
The morning after a fantastic LTS I breezed into the ag room. Mr. Pettit caught me with a very stern, “Miss Dallam.” This could not be good.
I discovered that he had born the wrath of Mr. Mullin, the music teacher, whose room we had used for our LTS and forgot to pick up.
I couldn’t fall into a hole fast enough as Mr. Pettit read me my rights as an irresponsible student. There was no excuse. No one to blame. Just me in that mistake.
On that morning, I learned that I own what is mine. The triumphs, the missteps, the obvious mistakes and the ones I didn’t know I made. Own it. All of it.
Life Lesson #4: Go with your gut.
I learned this very simply on the volleyball court. Hit the ground to keep the ball in the air. Not sure if the ball is out of bounds. “Go with your gut.” Follow it there.
On the court of life, if a word, a statement, a situation doesn’t feel right, honor that feeling. Honor your instinct, spend some quiet time reflecting and follow what you know is right even if others are telling you different.
I share these lessons because on the days the farm/food conversation becomes contentious, it helps to get centered by doing a quick review.
- I want to learn so as not to be the ignorant one in the conversation, and I appreciate the efforts of others to help me expand my knowledge base.
- I always try very, very, very hard not to assign assumptions and judgments, and often fail miserably.
- As much as it hurts, I own the times I do judge and assume, grudgingly recognizing in myself what so often I see and despise in others.
- And I’ve got to listen to that quiet voice that nags, tugs and says, “Don’t do it or jump in all the way.”