A lesson for all students on the first day of school

Isn’t it funny how time always seems to escape us?

Aside from voting at my local school, I probably can count on one hand how many times I’ve stepped foot inside an educational institution since graduating college 17 years ago (yikes, it’s been that long?). School was never truly my forte – how ironic then that I find myself married to a high school teacher. As long as she doesn’t give me homework, we’re in good shape.

And it’s because of my wife’s profession that I typically find myself walking the halls of the school she teaches in – there to lend a hand setting up her classroom before students fill her day with endless activity.

It always amazes me how the interiors of schools always smell the same regardless of their location. I’m not sure if it’s similar paint, floor wax or simply air fresheners created by Yankee Candle, but it’s a very familiar and distinctive smell that immediately transports me back in time to when I was a student. Our senses are incredibly powerful – unlocking memories we thought were hidden away forever.

I’ve told this story before, but it begs repeating as a new school year begins.

While watching a documentary focusing on the familial bond some animals have in the wild, most notably natures gentle giants (and my personal favorite) the elephant, I came across a wonderful lesson for all students entering a new school year regardless of their age or academic level.

The documentary focused on a young elephant calf in Africa who was only a day old. She paled in comparison to other elephants in the heard – running around trying to figure out how her legs and trunk worked, all under the watchful eye of her mother and grandmother.

Because the dry summer heat had eliminated much of the water supply, the heard needed to travel across wide landscapes until a proper drinking hole could be found. But the young calf wasn’t quite ready for such a journey. At times she would lag behind the group or lay down out of sheer exhaustion and boredom – her mother often nudging her with her trunk to keep moving her forward.

Finally they came upon a large pool of water, something the young elephant had never seen before. She was fascinated by the sight and immediately made her way to the water’s edge, unaware of the thick mud beneath the surface.

A few steps in, the young calf became stuck in the moist soil and suddenly began to panic – struggling to pry herself free. Her mother rushed to her rescue, but her own inexperience only made the situation worse – pushing the young elephant further down into the muck.

Thankfully grandma wasn’t far behind. Poking her daughter with her long tusks to move her aside, she swooped in and with her mighty trunk was able to quickly dislodge her granddaughter so she could climb to the safety of dry land. Out of breath and filthy, the young calf and her mother each learned the value of experience that day.

If there’s one piece of advice I can pass along to students it’s this: no matter how experienced you might believe you are in life, being an adult is about more than just appearances. Remember, you’re never done learning from those who’ve come before you.

Unfortunately, today’s youth seems uninterested in learning from those who possess a little more knowledge and experience. Then again perhaps we all were like that at that age, as we walked out of high school and straight into our lives.

No matter how old you are there will always be times in your life when you find yourself stuck in the mud. The important thing is to never let your ego prevent you from accepting a helping hand, or trunk for that matter, from someone who’s already been there.