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Published in Print: January 22, 2003, as Worth Noting

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Worth Noting

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"Not long ago I ran into a former student who's now in his 20s. After filling me in on what he had been doing, he added, 'I'm glad I had you as a teacher.' Naturally I was flattered, but I was also curious. I always wonder what my students remember some years after being in one of my classes. So I asked why. He said, with a knowing smile on his face, 'Because life is hard.' He said that that simple truth had helped him work through some rough spots in his life since finishing high school. Then he reminded me of the time when he first heard it.

When he was a freshman in one of my World History classes, I had given a particularly challenging assignment. I warned the kids in advance that I was going to make them do two things teachers weren't supposed to make students do: think and work. After a few good-natured groans, they started in. About halfway through, someone said, 'This is hard.' I responded the way I always do: 'Life is hard.' We then proceeded to have a wonderful discussion about philosophy, life, work, pain, joy, and success. Now, years later, this former student probably doesn't know the capital of Malaysia, but he does know that life is hard. More importantly, he has accepted it."

From former high school teacher Hal Urban's book Life's Greatest Lessons: 20 Things That Matter, whose fourth edition is being published this month by Simon & Schuster as A Fireside Book (Fireside, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020; 167 pp., $12 paperback). The book's first three editions (beginning in 1992) were self-published, and it became a word-of-mouth favorite among parents, teachers, and especially character education advocates.

Vol. 22, Issue 19, Page 31

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