“The greatest lessons learned in life are often outside the classroom.” – Unknown. On Teacher Appreciation Day in Hong Kong, we pay tribute to those people who have taught us valuable life lessons.
Ever found yourself in a challenging or unknown situation where you suddenly recalled words of wisdom from a teacher, coach, mentor or even a friend? The people who guide us have a way of staying in our hearts and minds for years, sometimes even after they have passed. We owe our teachers a lot, and not only for helping us scrape through (or breeze through, if you belong to that category!) school or university. 10 September is celebrated as Teacher Appreciation Day in Hong Kong and we are with remembering all those whose words and support have shaped our lives with love and gratitude. Thank you for the life lessons!
Life Lessons From Teachers: Handle Pressure
“A medal can go around only one neck.”
This was a quote by my ski racing coach. It was in reference to us athletes feeling the pressure to win for other people, like our parents, coaches or team. It was to remind us that at the end of the day, we alone carry the weight of a win or loss. I think it’s helped me understand that it’s important to keep focusing on my own performance, not getting distracted by comparing myself to others. Of course, it’s wonderful to have friends and family share in your great moments… but you don’t need them to achieve your best. You are responsible for yourself.
– Kathryn Dallison, Marketing Manager, Sassy Mama Hong Kong
Life Lessons From Teachers: Be Independent
“I can show you where to look but will not tell you what to see.”
My teacher, Mrs Puech, told me this when I was in Year 5 and it has stayed with me ever since! It’s so true! We can take help from friends and family to a certain level, but the final step is always something we have to take ourselves. It teaches us independence and a sense of responsibility I use it in my business as well – I seek advice but I know that I am the one who is ultimately responsible for its success or failure.
– Stuti Sharma, Science Class Teacher And Mumtrepreneur
Life Lessons From Teachers: Project Confidence
“Walk with your shoulders squared and your head held high.”
This was a quote from my primary school teacher to help us feel confident and radiate confidence. I have absorbed it completely! I always walk that way now and I find it helps my posture and clears my head.
– Mehroo Turel, Life Coach And Mumtrepreneur
Life Lessons From Teachers: Wear A Smile
“Always put a smile on your face. People who smile a lot are better looking than people who don’t.”
The very smiley and super friendly Mr Benjamin, my class tutor and History teacher in secondary school said this. As a teenage girl that was not allowed to wear makeup, of course, I was willing to take any advice on making myself look as attractive as possible. Following his advice, I would consciously put a smile on my face every time I realised that I had not been smiling. In recent decades, neuroscience has shown that smiling can trick your brain into being more positive so Mr Benjamin’s advice was even more profound than I realised more than 25 years ago.
– Nerice Gietel, Career Coach
Life Lessons From Teachers: Know What You Don’t Know
“We don’t have the truth of it, we are on a journey to be less wrong.”
This was by one of our Physics teachers when asked about the wave-particle duality of light. He explained that light isn’t a particle, and it isn’t a wave, but can be understood as either depending on the questions you ask of it. I’d been raised in a very strict religion, to which “the truth” was everything. I found the idea of us not knowing everything, acknowledging that and striving to obtain a useful understanding of our universe, both humbling and elating.
– Joseph Atkins, Veterinarian
Life Lessons From Teachers: Be Sincere, Not Serious
“Adulting is overrated.”
This wasn’t a quote as much as an attitude by my high school drama teacher, Laura Myers. She taught me that generosity and sincerity are the most important things in our lives. She helped not only me but my family as well, during an especially difficult event that took place in my senior year. She was always known for having her student’s back and for going the extra mile. She has always been a person I felt that I could trust and rely upon and someone with who I have continued to stay in touch. She surprised me with a little bit of money when I was in a tough financial spot once during university, gave me career and job advice when I struggled with work after my degree, and encouraged me to write when I had lost faith in myself.
– Danielle Tucker-Roberts, Teacher and Freelance Writer
Life Lessons From Teachers: Remain Humble
“Talent will only take you that far. Humility will take you a little bit further.”
This was a quote by a mentor when I was a budding journalist. I have to admit that at that time, I was bright but rather brash, full of that “freshly-graduated” confidence. It was a sobering thought and I have since used it at work. While I still can be brazen at times, it’s more of a tactic than innate behaviour. For the most part, I am easy to work with (or so I hope!).
– Parry Ravindranathan, Media Executive and Tech Entrepreneur
Life Lessons From Teachers: Have Fun
“Sometimes learning just needs a bit of fun, doesn’t it?”
Mr Michael Weber, my First Grade Teacher at Hong Kong International School did handstands during class. I remember sitting cross-legged during circle time, waiting for the minutes to go by as he read a story or taught us something. Clearly, the learning part of school went in one ear and out the other. But, then, with no warning or hint, he would kick up into a handstand. I snapped to attention immediately. There is something deeply impressionable about a teacher going upside down during class. He never stayed in that position for very long. Just a few seconds in an awkward, legs akimbo sort of upside stance. And then he would be upright again, slightly flushed in the face and say “Sometimes learning just needs a bit of fun, doesn’t it?”
I’ve always kept his words close to heart. And now when I am doing homework with my own children and trying to teach them something they couldn’t care less about, I crack a joke, crank up the music and whip out a few dance moves, make a funny face, anything to lighten the mood. My kids laugh (or roll their eyes now that they are tweens), but inevitably the atmosphere lightens and the mood becomes positive.
– Jennifer Wannenmacher, Sustainability Champion and Freelance Writer
Life Lessons From Teachers: Be Grateful
“Whenever you think your life is tough, remember with how little we can make someone’s life that much better.”
Back in Argentina, during the school summer holidays, we would oftentimes go help at some rural schools. We’d collect and repair old clothes and toys, and distribute non-perishable food to schools in the middle of nowhere. Many of these schools didn’t have running water and half the students didn’t even have shoes. We would usually stay for a week or so organising activities and sharing time with the kids and their families.
The first time I did this, I remember sitting on the bus that was taking us back to the city, and there was a complete sense of stillness in the air. No one said a word, and most of us were just feeling the weight of how much our trip must have meant for those families. One of the older kids, the main organiser then, said the quote above and reminded us to be grateful for what we have. This has had a big impact on the way I approached everything in life. I’m grateful every day for how much I’ve accomplished, and one of my biggest parenting goals is to instil this same sense of gratitude in my little ones.