“Lessons All Around” or “Pay Attention to the Details, Dammit”

Everything that I keep in my classroom is a lesson. Not just the posters that I have on the wall that show grammatical fixes to composition issues, but also life lessons. I do not teach these lessons outright, but if students pay attention (and occasionally ask a question) they will see the lessons that are all around them. They are not exactly hidden, but students do have to pay attention.

I teach at an alternative school. In my classroom, I have huge windows. And in those windows are plants. Plants of all sorts and species. Some of the plants look like they have long died; some look as though they are barely hanging on, and some look as though they are thriving in the constant sunlight. All of them I keep alive…

every year…

My colleagues are impressed.

So, what is the lesson? The lesson is one that I had to learn at age 24.

Trim those dead ends or they will slowly kill you.

That was the time that I had to learn to cut people out of my life in order for me to thrive. Most of my plants are very weather-beaten. They look dead because they have been sitting outside, exposed to the elements during summer break. By time I bring them back to my classroom, they have formed a hardness to them – some of them are tilted by the wind, some of them have grown extra limbs to provide shade from the sun, and some of them have leaves and petals that are hanging on to live limbs. If you do not take the time to care of these things, the plant will die a slow death.

People are no different. A lot of us have some king of hardship, trauma, challenge that we have been through and weathered. Getting past those burdens are important. But if we do not take the time to self-reflect and heal, we are going to have problems later. For me, taking myself out of the elements was not that hard of a task. Exiting the challenging environment led me to shed some of the weathered layers that were built. But, by far, the hardest thing that I had to do is trim off the dead leaves and petals.

Cutting people off is hard. What I found helpful is asking if the person or environment was helping me get to my goal. If the answer was no, then they need to go. It really does not make a difference what kind of relationship you have with this person. The fact of the matter is – toxicity kills goals.


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