Teaching Life Lessons

Posted on: April 23rd, 2014 by

This week, Marie of Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer has set the following writing prompt for Mojo Monday, “If you had to teach something, what would you teach?” I know it’s no longer Monday, but I want to take on this challenge nonetheless.

This particular prompt interests me because, as it turns out, I am a teacher by trade and by choice. I enjoy watching students learn and have that “aha” moment. If I’m lucky, I witness many accrued “aha” moments.


My role as a teacher goes further than that, beyond the confines of a classroom: I try to teach students about being good citizens and making the world a better place for them having been in it. We are participants, not spectators, in our world order, and I’m hoping I make a difference in my students’ lives. And, hopefully, they can pay it forward, making a difference in others’ lives.

And that leads me to my youngest pupil — my daughter, Arielle.

Before I became a parent, I didn’t really know that parenting is a superhuman feat. How could I? I knew I wanted to have a hand in raising someone who would make a positive difference in the world. I wanted to teach my future child.

Once I became a mother, I realized that I had to teach her: It was my responsibility to guide her on navigating this complex world we live in. It is my job to ensure she is prepared for the world, and that’s a tall order. Because there is no right way to parent: No two parents are alike, and no two children are alike.

Thank goodness for that.

There are a gazillion life lessons I have for her, but I can only cover six takeaways in this post. Parents evolve, children evolve, and so does what we teach. I’m hoping that Ari learns the following from me. I am trying my best to turn those teachable moments into permanent values for my daughter, and I work my hardest to lead by example.

These are not listed in any specific order of importance.

Actions speak louder than words. Just telling her to be kind to others is simply rhetoric. Showing her how to be kind toward others is one of my proudest teaching moments. Kids watch adults so closely. She watches how I treat my friends and family. And hopefully, she has already learned not to just tell someone she loves him or her, but to show it.

Be rich in self-esteem. She must always value herself, who she is on the inside. She must not endure ill treatment, and she needs to be strong enough to assert that she has value and won’t tolerate mistreatment.

Have integrity and character. I am honest with her and try to be honest with the world and myself. I hope she chooses to do the right thing whenever she’s at a crossroads, for being ethical is so important. The world is filled with unscrupulous people, and I always want Ari to follow her conscience and do what’s right.

Don’t feel entitled to rewards; you must earn them. I want Ari to expect excellence for herself through a solid work ethic. There is such gratification for trying one’s best, even if one falls short of a goal. A few weeks ago, students at Ari’s school competed for a spelling bee. The top three spellers of each grade would go onto the actual spelling bee. Ari and I studied super hard for it; I told her I wanted her in one of the top three spots. And she delivered a better performance than I could’ve imagined: she made it to the fourth round of the preliminaries. For a child who didn’t know how to read at the beginning of the school year, this was an excellent result.

On the day she found out she wasn’t one of the top three spellers, she was disappointed. I told her that I was proud of her for trying her best and making it as far as she did. She learned a valuable lesson that day: that even falling short of a goal is fine, as long as you try your best. And she learned a lot about earning one’s spot at the top.

Have courage. The world is not an easy place, and I hope Ari can face it with courage. That doesn’t mean she must be stoic in times of adversity. I just want her to look life in the eye and be tough when life stares at her right back.

Love life. I want Ari to take nothing for granted. Life is precious. I just want her to savor it, live in the moment, and seize all the goodness that life has to offer.

Ari at Museum

That’s all I can think of — for now. I’m doing my best to ensure Ari is embracing these values one teaching moment at a time. And it’s the hardest teaching challenge I’ve ever had.

Have you had any challenging teaching moments?

Have you had any pleasant teaching moments?

I would love to hear your point of view.

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13 Responses to Teaching Life Lessons

  1. Marie Ennis-O'Connor (@JBBC) had this to say about that:

    Beth, I love that you took up this writing prompt and what a beautiful picture you paint of teaching your gorgeous little girl to be the best that she can be.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Marie, thank you for starting your Mojo Mondays. You motivate me to write more, and that’s such a good thing. Thank you for an excellent prompt, as they all are.

  2. karen sutherland had this to say about that:

    Beth, all parents should have teaching goals and the awareness they can present themselves at many different times, places and circumstances. that’s a good thing, because as you point out, there will be good opportunities to reaffirm what they learn maybe in a differnet light. all Moms raising little girls have a huge challenge to bring them up to be all the things you’ve noted. and I have no doubt that your beautiful Ari will have the very best teacher of all – you, her wise and loving Mother.

    much love and light to you and Ari,

    Karen xoxoxo

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      I really appreciate your comment, and thank you for saying those kind things about me. You hit on an important point: the fact that raising girls is a very challenging situation. Too often, girls have low self-esteem and fall victim to the media-laden messages of what they should look, act, etc. like.

      Thank you for your continued readership!

  3. Nancy's Point had this to say about that:

    Hi Beth,
    Teaching children, whether they are our own or someone else’s is such a privilege and such a huge responsibility. I imagine being a single parent is at times even more daunting, but at the same time, probably even more rewarding too. I have a feeling you’re a wonderful educator and a wonderful mom. And that’s quite a list there. Such important stuff!

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Nancy, I know that as an educator you had such a wonderful privilege to foster learning and life lessons in young ones. Now you are educating the world through your excellent blog and book. Wonderful.

      Thank you for your compliment on my parenting skills. You are right: being a single mom is daunting at times, but it has its rewards. Like any parent, all I can do is try my best.

  4. Tyler Hull had this to say about that:

    What a great list Beth. Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. Pingback: Weekly Round Up | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

  6. eileen@womaninthehat.com had this to say about that:

    You’re a thoughtful, caring mom and I’ve no doubt Ari will grow up to feel loved, nurtured, and equipped to live in this world. Besides that, she is too adorable!

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Thank you so much, Eileen! I’m hopeful that Ari will be prepared to endure this world’s trials and tribulations. And thank you for your kind words about her! :)

  7. Catherine had this to say about that:

    Your list and your love for Ari are a pleasure to read about. Good for her and her spelling skills!

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