Open Letter To Students On Their First Day of School

So today school starts in my neck of the woods. You're probably headed into a big building to sit in chairs for 8 hours. Many of you will do great, but I figure a lot of you will be like me.

I could never learn anything while sitting in a chair and reading a textbook. My grades were usually horrible. I still remember the looks of disappointment when my parents learned about my struggles at school. My sisters had all turned out to be excellent students. When they tried hard enough (and they always did) they got As. I remember one math teacher telling me to take it as a compliment to my work ethic when he said "you're the only student who has actually tried their hardest and still failed my class." Even when I had great teachers, school just didn't work for me. 

But remember this...

Just because you're bad at math, or test taking, or you read slower than others doesn't mean you're any less capable of achieving great things. Don't let it get to you. As long as you're innovative, positive, and active in pursuing all the great talents (as strange as they may be) that God has given you, you'll be just fine! 
The skills that have proven most useful to me these past few years have been critical thinking in stressful situations, ability to maintain a positive attitude in myself and others, resilience, and leadership skills. I didn't learn any of those by sitting at a desk; I learned them in the woods. I have encountered about 2 dozen black bears in the last 5 years, and none of them have ever asked me to find the solution to a quadratic equation. 

I imagine that I would have achieved decent grades in "rain catch building" or "rainforest fire starting," but those useful classes just weren't offered at my school for some reason. When I discovered "survival" skills, my world changed. There was finally something practical to learn. There were suddenly tasks that made sense to me. I could carve a paddle or start a friction fire and see success unfold right there in my own hands. It took a while, but I finally found my passion. 

So, for your first day of school, here's my advice

  • Do your best at school, even if it's not your thing. Try hard and learn what you can. If you fail, you'll fail knowing that you tried your hardest, and there's no fault in that. 
  • Don't be dismayed by your failures. Maybe you're like me and you're not good at school. It's okay. It probably means that you have skills and talents that just haven't been discovered yet. 

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About the author

You can catch Sam this summer on HISTORY's ALONE

Sam is a writer, adventurer, motivational speaker, and founder of Woodsong. In 2011 his practical experiences over many nights in remote wilderness areas inspired him to start this blog. Sam's adventures have lead him throughout North America where he has had the opportunity to learn from world-class outdoorsmen, and perhaps the greatest teacher of all, the natural world.

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