11. Teach someone something life-changing.
When I first started the 26 for 26 list, I was really unsure what #11 actually meant. All I knew was that I wanted to feel like I’d imparted a piece of wisdom on someone they could and would remember their whole life. I didn’t know if I needed it to be a big lesson or just a small li’l thing, but I did know that I needed it to feel complete. To feel in general.
I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I crossed this gonna off my list thanks to the teaching gig I (quite literally) fell into this year, but it wasn’t apparent to me that I had accomplished much of anything there until the past few months. I started getting piles and piles of letters, and only then did I realize I had actually made an impact that could be taken out of the classroom and into the rocky road of life.
Some students said they wanted to be like me. A small handful said I inspired them to teach. More students thanked me for getting them into reading or reminding them that learning can be fun, while others thanked me for more practical everyday advice. However, they ALL thanked me for being nice to them; for treating them not only as human beings, but as equals.
That unanimous statement shocked me. Have we really systemized our education (and society) so much that being a good, caring teacher is really THAT unheard of?
Like the shock of the morning alarm, I instantly realized I really had taught them something deeper than English literature. I had taught them the same thing my mother taught me when I myself was a teenager, crying over yet another horrible person beating me down to nothing:
“Kill ’em with kindness.”
And sure, she meant to get my revenge by not letting people get to me and by living a joyous life they could envy, but by extension, she also meant to live a life brimming with benevolence. She meant to be the positive force in the room even when everyone is trying their damnedest to get you to go negative. She meant to be so compassionate that others around you would have no choice but to be compassionate, too.
By simply being myself (and, er, actually saying “kill ’em with kindness” approximately 587 times a semester), as well as accepting the students at face value, I also taught them something else.
I taught them that one day, even if it’s found in an unexpected person, someone out there already accepts and will love every bit of you for who you are.
For them, that person was me.
For me, it was all 145 of them.