What I’ve Learned From 15 Years of Teaching

I’ve just started year 16 of my career, and there’s one surprising point that revealed itself time and again during the first 15.

15 years is long enough that I’ve seen students grow up and start their own careers and families–indeed, the oldest ones from my first few years are now in their 30s!  I’ve bumped into random former students dozens of times on the street, and just as often online.

And you know what seems obvious to me now?

People turn out OK.

That’s it. That’s the big revelation. All those lazy, squirrelly kids who got on my nerves? It’s clear that most of them–that most of us, that most people in general–grow up and turn out just fine.

I’ve seen not only the many students I liked and enjoyed working with prove this, but even many who my pessimistic self thought wouldn’t be able to productively and independently function in the real world. I’ve seen enough of those, in fact, that I’ve long since had to abandon that pessimism.

It’s like A Clockwork Orange. The original novel has a last chapter where the youthful hedonism and violence of the narrator dissipates as he grows up. The US edition of the book–and the famous movie–deleted that last chapter, choosing darkness over optimism.

But for me at least, the evidence is in. The kids are alright. The adults are even better. We can trust that young people will turn out OK.

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