What Is One Lesson You Learned in School That You’ll Never Forget?

Real Simple readers share the instructions that stuck with them—and shaped who they are today.

Photo by Christopher Silas Neal

One morning during fourth grade, my teacher handed out a list of questions and told us to read through them before answering. I went to work without reading the whole list. Minutes later, when I was only halfway done, she asked us to put our pencils down. It turned out the last “question” actually read, “Do not answer any of these questions.” Ever since, I’ve always read the instructions before beginning a project. It has helped me avoid countless missteps.
Jeannette Gosnell
Livermore, California

My seventh-grade social-studies teacher asked the class to be ready to discuss a current event every Thursday, even though only a few students would be called on, at random, to share their thoughts. On Wednesday nights, I would study diligently just in case, and the couple of times he picked me, I knew exactly what to say. As a result, I earned an A in the course. The take-away: Always be prepared.
Dedria M. Harrod
Temple Hills, Maryland

After he caught me daydreaming during class, my junior-high English teacher told me, “Don’t waste any opportunity to learn.” He taught me that listening attentively is an invaluable skill. I still follow his advice and try to pick up some bit of knowledge from everyone I meet.
Sonia Contreras Toledo
San Juan, Puerto Rico

Don’t be difficult. At age 12, I was moody and starting to feel adolescent rebelliousness. Early in the school year, I decided I didn’t like my gym teacher, so I refused to cooperate in class. I shouldn’t have been surprised to get an F on my report card, but I was. More than 50 years later, that memory still stings.
Diane Cooley
Claremont, California