Rachel Penate

Words of Advice: From a Teacher

Walk into any Target, and the over-stimulating abundance of new pens and notebooks will tell you: a new school year is here.

I’m sure this time of year has brought on a familiar feeling — a sadness that the summer is over. But, this year I’ll guess it’s most likely different. You’re heading to college! And even though college is still labeled “school,” you may be experiencing a different feeling of anxiety or excitement. As a high school teacher, I saw many of my own students, upon approaching those unchartered waters, really come to question what college would be. Yes, college is an opportunity to “break free from your parents,” and make new friends. But, college is (even more) an invitation to experience the raw and limitless opportunities of learning.

The goal of this blog is to encourage you that learning doesn’t have to provoke a sort of sadness within you that summer is over, but rather, a joy that you have the opportunity to learn something new each and every day — even in the months of June, July, and August.

1. Be a Learner for Life (not just for a semester)

The knowledge you gain in the classroom is important. But, here is the reality: learning is a necessity wherever you go. To learn is to grow in knowledge of a specific topic. But, learning also means being able to adapt and adjust to new topics, surroundings, and people.

How many of you are uncomfortable with the idea of living with a new roommate, or even living away from home? I went to college 12-hours from home, and I was royally homesick for a full semester. But, I stuck it out, and listened to God. When I was open to learn why, He was able to show me why He called me there, and give me the necessary grace to grow more comfortable in my surroundings.

When we are open to the Lord’s calling, He will draw us to uncomfortable places. College is not the only time we will experience this — our opportunities to learn are endless. Be confident; when we are open to learning how to adjust to those places, people, or topics we are able to recognize how smart God is. He is going to lead us to exciting places because He knows our hearts better than we know our own.

Practical thought: When you are uncomfortable, or struggling through a new situation in college, ask the Lord (and those close to you), “What can I learn from this?”

2. Don’t Skip out

As a teacher, it broke my heart a little when my students would check out on me before I even began to teach. I could tell when they did; their eyes would glaze over a little, and their faces become expressionless. I got it, they were tired, and it was the fifth time they’ve been lectured at that day. But, I had planned a lesson that was important to their understanding of English (maybe it would’ve even been exciting to them that day), and they didn’t even give me a chance to teach it to them.

In college, you will have even more freedom to “check out” if you so choose. Truancy policies are more lenient and (most) professors are more tolerant. It’s going to be tempting… especially on a nice sunny day in March after a long winter. But, here’s the deal: your professors have something to teach you whether or not you see it as “exciting” or “enriching.” Learning is boring sometimes. But just because it’s boring doesn’t mean it’s any less important. Don’t let the emotion (boredom) take control of the truth (you might learn something important).

Practical Thought: Whenever you are feeling tempted to “skip out,” in any area of your day, pray this simple prayer: “Lord help me to be open, to see what you want me to see, hear what you want me to hear, and learn what you want me to learn. Amen.”

3. Be a Good Judge of What is True

Raise your hand if you know that Discovery makes up some of its Shark Week Documentary stories (so sorry, if this is upsetting news). Raise your hand if you know that not everything written online, or spoken on television is true.

Our output of information is only intensifying. When you live in an age in which you need to wear protective gear to soften the impact of what we are bombarded with in a day, you better know how to judge whether or not that information is true. God has given us the gift of logic and reasoning for a… uhm… reason. Evaluate all views of a topic, and look at it through the eyes of the Catholic Church before making a decision as to where you stand. I cannot even begin to tell you how important this is, especially in classrooms where you may feel like the minority when it comes topics on morality, and sexuality.

Don’t fall into the trap of “truth by popular consent.” Look to Truth himself to show you what is false (John 14:6). A smart person is someone who knows what is true, but a wise person is someone who knows why it is true.

Practical Thought: When confronting an issue, or event, read through at least five different sources and the Church teaching on the topic (if you can’t find an “official” statement, discuss the issue with someone you trust to speak from the authority of the Church) before determining the truth of a situation. Note: sometimes this is a process that takes days, even years. Be patient.

4. Balance your School Life

As a teacher, my favorite conversations were the ones in which students told me, passive-aggressively, that they “were up all night to finish my English essay.” So sorry, young learner, it’s my fault for keeping you up all night to finish that awful essay. I should give you a new deadline because you put it off for five weeks.

Uh, no. That’s not how it works. Deadlines are deadlines for a reason. Productivity and organization in life isn’t something to be governed by, but it is something that we should govern in our own lives. Yes, things are going to need to be pushed back or aside here and there, but we should have enough room and flexibility in our lives to do so.

Don’t overload your life; it will not make you happy.

Practical Thought: Schedule out your week and identify what area of life each of the events fall into: Spiritual (daily prayer, Mass), Intellectual (school, studying), Social, and Physical (i.e. rest, exercise, etc.). If there is not an even spread and balance of these areas of life… re-order, add, or delete.

Bon Voyage

College is like a really awesome ride on the sea — full of smooth sailing, charging waves, and beautiful sunsets. But, mostly a journey to a more well rounded and educated you. Enjoy the sunsets and smooth sailing, but also enjoy the charging waves. Those are the moments you will grow the most.

Know that I am praying for you!

Categories: CollegeMy Life

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Rachel Penate

About the Author

I am a Wisconsin girl at heart who has a slight obsession with the band Switchfoot. When I was little I dreamed of becoming a professional figure skater, but instead found myself studying Education. Currently I reside in the great, yet terribly hot state of Arizona, and serve as Assistant to the Executive Vice President of Life Teen. I love most: my job, the ocean, running half-marathons, my dog Gus, husband Robbie, and above all — my Lord. Follow me on Twitter @LT_rachelp