Monday Memories: Discovering Success

white graphing paper

Photo by Pixabay on

This is a true story about one of my former students.  I was teaching at a high school in the Bitterroot Valley in western Montana.

A disgruntled John entered my classroom on the first day of school.  The senior was enrolled in an Accounting class with a room full of other seniors as well as a sprinkling of juniors.

As I was checking in later with each student, John bluntly told me, “I didn’t sign up for this class.”

I told John, “I am sorry to hear about this, but this class is a great one to take.  I am looking forward to having you as a student.”

John quickly replied back, “The counselor dumped me in here because I need the credit to graduate.”

John’s stubbornness left him with a poor attitude.  His first quarter grade was well below passing as he completed very little of the work.  He continued to balk as each new chapter showed up on the class syllabus.

I visited with John’s mother, and she was quite concerned.  She had her hands full with John’s noncompliant attitude as well.

An Accounting course works quite a bit like a math class.  As each week progresses, students continue to add more building blocks of skill and knowledge related to the previous chapter.  John was falling further and further behind.

During the second grading period, John began to show a tiny bit more interest in his performance.  After all, he needed to earn a passing grade by the end of the first semester in order to receive credit.

I was beginning to see John’s potential which had been buried under the “chip on his shoulder” about school in general.  Through it all, I could see that John was a sharp young man.  Therefore, we just needed to find more ways to unlock his potential.

As the semester ended, John squeaked by with a passing grade . . . just barely!

Quote from British writer, C. S. Lewis:  “The task of the modern educator is not to cut down the jungles, but to irrigate the deserts.”

I remained patient with John as the second semester began.  He seemed more eager to discover himself when he returned to school after Christmas break.  I continued to encourage him each day, and made an effort to touch base with him frequently.  As the next few weeks continued, we both began to build an improved relationship based upon trust and respect.

As the third grading period progressed, John began to see the light.  He was excited about class in ways I had never seen before.  There was a genuine enthusiasm in his work as well as his much improved attitude.  His failing marks were being replaced with A’s and B’s.

By the end of the third quarter, John was a solid “B” student in Accounting.  He pulled me aside and told me one day, “I am really enjoying your class.  In fact, I am thinking of taking business courses at college next year.”

He continued to excel and progress through the rest of the school year.  I visited with John’s mother before graduation, and she was very proud of her son’s progress.  He had matured beyond even her expectations.

In my short teaching career (I was in my fifth year), I had never witnessed such a turnaround as experienced by John.  It was amazing and very gratifying to see a student literally catch fire and take off.  At the end of the school year, John received my “Most Improved” award.  John encouraged me with his own discovery of success.

This story captures the essence of why I found countless rewards from teaching over my 40-year career.  I lost track of John long ago, but I feel assured his life turned out quite well.

marketing school business idea

Photo by Gerd Altmann on

Originally published May, 2020.

Dag Hammarskjold Quotes

Photo by Orlando Vera on

Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top.  Then you will see how long it was.

We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny.  But what we put into it is ours.

Dag Hammarskjold (1905-1961) was a Swedish economist and diplomat.  He served as the second Secretary-General of the United Nations (1953-1961).

Appreciate Each Day (Haiku Series #216)

Cherishing Life

Needing to slow down

Take time to reflect upon—

Smallest victories

Photo by Kampus Production on

Paying Forward

Old-fashioned kindness

Offer gentle courtesy—

Always in style

Photo by RODNAE Productions on

Blossoming Keepsake

Creative journey

Endless imagination—

Peaceful contentment

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Martina Boone Quotes

Photo by K O R A Y B O Z K U R T on

Family is always a mirror.  You can hide from other people, you can hide from yourself, but your family is going to reflect what you’re doing right back at you.

It doesn’t matter how great your shoes are if you don’t accomplish anything in them.

Martina Boone is a Czech Republic born author who has lived in the United States since turning seven years of age.

Dreaming of Conquest

Photo by Kampus Production on

Dreaming of conquest

Favorite game show

Awesome contestant

Answer’s fandango


Sleeping wide awake

No longer dreaming

Clock striking midnight

Netflix still streaming


Sailing oceans blue

First mate now sleeping

Craft found, back on course

Prize’s safekeeping


Shifting direction

Away from sailing

Compass pointing west

Dreamtime’s unveiling


Sweeping “Price is Right”

Morning now shifting

New day with new wheels

Sports car downshifting


Photo by Mike B on

Matt Haig Quotes

Photo by Uddab Bogati on

The thing that looks the most ordinary might end up being the thing that leads you to victory.

If you aim to be something you are not, you will always fail.  Aim to be you.

Matt Haig (born 1975) is an English writer and journalist.  Much of his writing focuses on novels with fictional themes for adults as well as children stories.

Beverly Sills Quotes

Photo by Brett Jordan on

There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.

You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.

Beverly Sills (1929-2007) was an American operatic star with few equals during her performances from the 1950s into the 1970s.  

Wynton Marsalis Quotes

Photo by THIS IS ZUN on

You need a team.  You need people to push you.  You need opponents.

Jazz can show us how to work together, while also celebrating our obvious differences.

Wynton Marsalis (born 1961) is an American trumpeter and composer.  He promotes both classical and jazz music, and he has spent numerous hours sharing his music and message with young people.  He has received nine Grammy Awards.

Elbert Hubbard Quotes

Photo by on

One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men.  No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.

To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.

Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) was an American writer, philosopher, and artist.  Much of his work became more recognized in the years following his death when both he and his wife perished with the sinking of the RMS Lusitania during World War I.

School Bells Ringing (Haiku Series #192)

It’s Time

Morning alarm rings

Summer vacation over—

Teacher calls my name

Photo by Miriam Alonso on

Stay Alert!

Flashing traffic lights

Driving with care in school zones—

Give these kids a BRAKE!

Photo by Mary Taylor on

Students’ Toolbox

Another school year

Effort, attitude, action—

Ready for success

Photo by Gerd Altmann on