Sunday, May 1, 2011


By Thomas F. O'Neill

Learning from the lessons of life

I graduated from Shenandoah Valley high school in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania in 1981 before most of my students here in Suzhou, China were born. In my high school days there was no internet, computers, and spellcheckers on cell phones. The things that make this dyslexic coal cracker appear so much more intelligent than I could possibly be. The ability to instantly communicate is something we now take for granted and it is only a shadow of the technology yet to come.

I can’t help but to imagine how much easier today’s technology would have made my college days. I sure could have used this technology back then. On the other hand, the more this technology is advancing our society the more it would appear our society is dumbing down. Our ability to send instant messages and to text others in real time diminishes our communications in some ways and we take less time in making our communications accurate and concise.

I once heard a high school teacher say as long as the meaning is properly conveyed in the student’s report that is all that matters. That is why I can’t entirely blame some of our youth in our American schools for their inability to spell and construct grammatically correct sentences. I have to put most of the blame on the school system. It has also become easy for most teachers in the U.S. to put the blame on the student for their failing grades and their lack of respect for the education system. In most cases though respect from the students’ needs to be earned.

Most Chinese students respect their teachers and that respect is vital for their overall education. When you truly care and respect others you will find that others will truly care and respect you. When a teacher takes the extra time to reach a struggling student it is perceived in China as an act of kindness.

Our American students just like students from all over the world put great emphases on getting into the right colleges and earning the right degrees. Education after all does provide us with boundless opportunities and an educated society enhances the overall well being of its nation. If a teacher takes the time to positively impact a student’s life they are changing the world one person at a time. That kindness will be remembered long after the student’s lesson plans are forgotten because it leaves an indelible imprint in one’s heart and soul.

A teacher’s kindness cannot be bought, sold, or acquired academically; it can only be freely given from one heart to the other and that can be their greatest legacy. Teachers are not only teaching they are being taught by the lessons of life. The greatest teachers throughout history were also the greatest students when it came to those life's lessons.

Always with love from Suzhou, China.
Thomas F O’Neill

    Phone: (800) 272-6464
    China Cell: 011-86-15114565945
    Skype: thomas_f_oneill
    Other articles, short stories, and commentaries by Thomas F. O'Neill can be found on his award winning blog, Link:

    Click on Thomas F. O'Neill for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

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