I’d say I was probably a pretty typical (dumb) boy growing up—I didn’t really think things through, usually just acting hyper and stupid and irresponsible. At the same time, I seem to recall being fairly well liked by most of my teachers and was probably given more latitude than was good for my soul.
Enter fifth grade and my social studies class. We had a rather large assignment where we supposed to prepare a presentation for one of the states. We were given several weeks to prepare this, with the understanding that the project was a large portion of our grade. When the time to start the presentations came, I watched other students give their presentations, completed with research and frequently with poster boards and the such.
Well, my family didn’t own any encyclopedias at home. And this was obviously before the days of the interwebs. So, in some part of my ten-year-old brain, that struck me as an insurmountable barrier. Thus, when my turn came, Mrs. Brown called on me to give my presentation, we had a conversation that went something like this:
Me: I didn’t do it.
Mrs. Brown (after a very long pause): Why not??
Me: Because we don’t own any encyclopedias.
Mrs. Brown: Why didn’t you just go to the library??
Me: Oh. I didn’t think of that.
Mrs. Brown: Well, I’m going to give you a zero for this assignment since you didn’t complete it by your due date.
I say this was part of God’s grace to me because it was the first time I remember really ever having to take responsibility for a dumb decision I made. What’s still funny to me is that I really thought it was okay that I didn’t do the assignment (which, consequently, really does help me in parenting two boys who are both around that age right now!). Regardless of how dumb tween boys are, this was so important to me because Mrs. Brown didn’t make excuses for me or extend my deadline. I was given an assignment with a deadline, and when I missed it, there was no, “aw, shucks, Billy, that’s okay”—there was simply the consequence of not doing the work on my side to overcome any obstacles.
So, I give thanks to God for Mrs. Brown, who taught me that I have a responsibility not only to meet expectations, but also that many of my incredibly reasonable excuses were really just lame. It stung and I deserved it and (as you can tell) I never forgot it.