One Day at a Time


Jay introduced himself with a relaxed smile and easy laugh. He needed no prompting to recall the story of a teacher who made an impact on his life. He leaned back in his chair, crossed his long arms and began chatting about Mr. Mann, the math teacher who made algebra agreeable the second time around.

I had to pass algebra. I already failed it once. I was a confident kid in high school, but math intimidated me. Walking into Mr. Mann’s class that first day, I had little hope of success. I still remember his exact words. "You are going to have a quiz at the start of each class. The quiz will only cover what we did the previous day. All you have to do is show up, pay attention and go over the material when you get home."

The stakes were high for me; so I did precisely what Mr. Mann said. It seemed less overwhelming to just focus on one day’s lesson at a time. As days turned into weeks, I began to master the content. Halfway through the semester, I was helping other students. I did not just pass algebra, I made the highest grade in the class. Now, whenever I am faced with a difficult task, I think about Mr.Mann. I know anything is doable if I just break it down into bite-sized chunks.

It was a lesson that transcended math. Sometimes life feels difficult and overwhelming. Sometimes a past failure erodes confidence. But all we really have to do is show up every day and pay attention. At the end of each day, take some time to reflect on the day’s lessons and prepare for tomorrow’s tests. Teachers like Mr. Mann give kids like Jay the chance to learn that they can accomplish anything by taking it one day at a time. What life lesson did your teacher hide in academic content? Share in the comments below.

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