This post is part of Think Kit.
February's prompt: Write a letter to someone whom you never got a chance to thank for the role they played in your lives (a teacher, a neighbor, a relative, etc.). What was it about that person that mattered so much? Why do you feel the need to say thanks? Did you discover something else entirely? Sign up to receive monthly prompts here.
A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success.
– Elbert Hubbard
As I reflected on this month’s Think Kit prompt about thanking someone that made an impact in my life, I was reminded of a season where, without the encouragement and support of a particular teacher, I could have easily given up instead of persisting through a situation that felt like failure.
Mr. Hitchcock was my U.S. History teacher during my junior year of high school. My family had just moved to Noblesville that summer after my sophomore year, so I was still adjusting to a new town, new friends, new school, new everything. I still remember walking into his class for the first time. He was wearing a suit and tie and was pretty intimidating at first glance. I could tell right away from his class overview that this guy set the bar high and was a no-nonsense teacher.
Only a few weeks into the class, I realized that Mr. Hitchcock was passionate about teaching history and really wanted his students to understand all that our nation has gone through to be who we are today. And my hunch about him setting the bar high was a dramatic understatement – the homework load for this class alone was a significant time investment every night. I learned quickly that preparing for his tests would take my studying habits to a whole new level.
Halfway through the semester, I was really struggling with his class and not getting the grades I wanted. (Oh to be 16 again when my stress level correlated with my GPA…) I was drowning in homework each night, and struggling to see how I could ever turn my grade around. I felt like my only option was to drop his class, and start fresh with a new teacher in the spring semester. I had made up my mind, but my parents wanted me to talk to Mr. Hitchcock before we made any changes. Although the idea of this conversation made me sweat, I agreed that it was important.
The conversation with my teacher was a game-changer – a true formative experience. I remember talking really fast to get all my points across, and then having Mr. H quietly sit back in his chair and ask me this question: “What if there is more to school than just getting the grade you want?” Well, shoot...I didn’t have an answer for him. What more could there be to school other than getting good grades so you can get into college?
Mr. Hitchcock went on to explain that he felt it was his responsibility to help his students understand the process of learning and not just the end result. He pushed his students to think and communicate in ways that they hadn’t before, to be creative problem-solvers and not just students that can cram information in their short-term memory to spit out on a multiple-choice test. (He actually called them “multiple-guess” tests and thought they were an insult to the learning process…) He challenged me to think bigger about how and what I was learning, instead of just the grade. He praised me for the hard work I was doing in the class and encouraged me to keep doing my best and trust that my grade would take care of itself.
Wow! It was not how I expected the conversation to go, but it gave me so much to think about. I’m so very grateful that Mr. Hitchcock was willing to help me think big-picture about learning and the value of persistence. I remembered that conversation often throughout the rest of high school and into college, and also saw how much that message applied to the rest of my life.
To this day, Mr. Hitchcock is one my very favorite teachers. I went on to take 3 more classes with him during high school, and kept in contact with him throughout college. He made a powerful impact in my life, challenging my perspective and helping me realize that it’s not always the end result that matters, but the persistence through the process.