Learningby Lauren Richardson, W. Seneca, NYDuring your life, you learn many things. Much of this knowledge you gain in school. You learn how to divide numbers, why the sun rises and sets and the history of the world. Yet, some lessons of life can be learned in school, but not from a book.When I was in sixth grade, I thought I had the greatest teacher in the world. Everyone in my grade hoped they would have Mr. Clifford. I thought my heart would burst through my chest with excitement when he called my name for his class on the first day of school.It turned out that Mr. Clifford was even better than everyone had raved. He was laid-back and easy-going, but able to keep our attention, even when talking about the French Revolution, a lesson that some become sleepy when hearing about.But, every so often, he would say something sexist. It was not directed toward one particular person, but instead the entire female gender. He would mock women's driving, their way of doing things, or their lack of strength and guts. We girls would fight back.This happened throughout the year. Almost every day we argued about the whole male versus female war that has probably gone on since the dawn of time. Though some people may say that we should have reported him to our principal, deep in our hearts we knew it was just a joke. We knew Mr. Clifford respected women and he was just joking with us.At the end of the year, we finally asked him why he always said those things. "It was a test," he answered simply. "I wanted to teach you to stand up for yourselves. As you get older, you will meet people who believe those things I said. I want you to be able to deal with it and not let them put you down."This lesson has been carried with me through my life. I learned that no one is better than I am, unless I want them to be. I learned that just because I am a woman (and smaller than some men) does not make them smarter or more powerful than me. If I listen to those who say women are weak and frail, I will become exactly what they want me to be: weak and frail. I refuse to allow this.What Mr. Clifford taught me is not something that can be learned from a diagram, a lecture, or a book; it's something that comes from a person willing to go the extra mile to teach a student. ?
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.