The second thing I learned is this: I know why some species eat their young. I’m not proud of it, but I’m honest enough to admit the idea has crossed my mind when yet another student asks me in complete sincerity, “Will my grade go up if I do my missing work?”
But the most important lesson I lever learned was from Conrad who taught me to fall forward.
Conrad was a fighter. He fought authority, protocol, procedures, and he fought me. He bent rules as easily as a clown bends balloons into animals. At first his teachers fought against him too. There were days when I thought either he or I wouldn’t make it to the end of the year, but Conrad also was endearing to everyone he met.
After high school, he joined the Air Force, and one day he challenged a captain who tried to sneak a free cup of coffee from the snack bar he was guarding. The captain tried to pull rank, but Conrad was always one to stand on principle, and he made the captain pay for the coffee. The captain got even by reporting his insolence to the base commander.
The next day he was summoned to the base commander’s office for what he thought would be his final butt chewing. Instead, the impressed colonel rewarded Conrad for standing on principle and assigned him to lead the presidential honor guard. On my classroom wall is a photo of Conrad standing at attention alongside the president, the first lady, Prince Philip, and Queen Elizabeth.
Every student in my class has a quote assigned to them. Their first act after receiving their diploma at the graduation ceremony is to walk up to a microphone and recite their quote to the parents and teachers in the audience. Conrad stood before the crowd and recited the one he had chosen. “If we occasionally fall – and we all do – just be sure to fall forward.”
I’ve stumbled so many times in my years of teaching. So have my students. But I’ve stopped trying to teach them how to avoid stumbling. I want to teach them how to fall forward, how to get back up, and how to walk again. Thank you, Conrad.
Conrad's quote is one of many from my upcoming book, Noble Quotes for Noble Hearts. The book features a year's worth of daily inspirational quotes for educators and students. Be watching in the coming weeks for the announcement of its publication.
I'd love to hear your thoughts. What have you learned from your students?