Best advice you've ever gotten from a teacher
Long division, proper grammar, and state history aren’t the only lessons you learned in school. Whether you realize it or not, your teachers were also sharing valuable life skills and dropping some serious knowledge while they were at the front of the class. Hidden beneath the group projects and field trips were truly life-changing lessons, from collaborating with your peers to seeking out different perspectives and celebrating diversity, to name just a few. Effective teachers can not only help students master a subject such as math, English, or biology; teachers often help students become more confident, kind, and intelligent people.
Perhaps that’s why memories of favorite teachers stick so vividly, even years after the Pythagorean theorem has faded or you’ve forgotten how to conjugate French verbs. A teacher’s impact may be cumulative: building up over time, through morals taught through stories or subtle interactions; or the advice might have been more overt. To discover just how impactful teachers can be for some people, Stacker sent readers a survey about the best advice they ever received from a teacher. Teachers at every grade level—from kindergarten through high school and even college—were considered.
The inspiring and touching responses demonstrate just how big of an impact skillful teachers can have on their students. Each piece of advice on this list stuck with the students who submitted responses long after the school year ended—for decades after they graduated, in many cases. The classroom isn’t just somewhere for students to practice their times tables or struggle through pop quizzes—it’s also a place they can interact with their peers, build self-confidence, and develop as human beings.
Read on for 25 of the most impactful pieces of advice that students ever received from teachers. Who knows? You might learn a thing or two while you’re at it.
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Never be a bystander
“When I was a sophomore in high school, I met a woman named Helen Sperling. She was a Holocaust survivor who lived in the area where I grew up. Helen was born in Poland and transported to Ravensbrück concentration camp as a teenager. She survived thanks to an indomitable spirit and small acts of defiance. She was forced to work in SS factories producing materials for the war. As a worker, she would misalign the machinery or readjust the settings—anything to fight back, even if it meant risking her life. She refused to be a bystander. And this became the philosophy by which she lived her life, and encouraged others to live their lives: never be a bystander. As I grew closer with Helen, I'd travel with her when she spoke at schools around Central New York to tell her story, to remind people what happens when everyone decides to be a bystander. I think of Helen almost every day. Whenever I'm faced with the choice to step in or stand by, I think about her small acts of rebellion and her unfaltering dedication to fighting for something much bigger than herself.”
— Lauren, Boston
The opposite of love is indifference
“In 11th-grade AP English, we completed a unit on the Holocaust. We read 'Night' by Elie Wiesel, 'Man's Search for Meaning' by Viktor Frankl, and other essays and literature from survivors and contemporaries of the time. While these weren't [the teacher's] words—they're Elie Wiesel's—she always reminded us the opposite of love is indifference. She always reinforced that no matter where we went, what we pursued, how badly we failed, we should never grow indifferent to any aspect of our life or to any person that we meet.”
— Lauren, Boston
To learn, you must care
“That no learning can start without forming a relationship.”
Win or learn
“You either win or you learn: Reposition your attitude to see failure as a learning opportunity.”
— Melanie, San Diego, Calif.
Set your sights where you want to go
“You'll go where you look.”
Figure out the question above all else
“Knowing what questions to ask is far more important than knowing the answers.”
— Zac, Los Angeles
Know your stuff
“To build a great product, you must be a great consumer.”
— Luke, California
Stay in the black
"My teacher said, ‘Be confident to fail.’ I wasn’t sure what he meant at first but learned later that my greatest learning was in failing at something and then improving on it."
— Ros, Lincoln, U.K.
Never stop learning
— Brandon, Brooklyn, N.Y.2018 All rights reserved.