By Mary Hunt Webb

Posted Monday, February 21, 2011

When I worked at the community college, my first job was assisting students individually and in small groups with their specific learning difficulties. Many students came to me for help with punctuation and spelling. Therefore, the following student is not identifiable by her problems nor by her behavior. Rather, she typifies many adult learners.

She came to me for remedial help because her punctuation and spelling were poor. I assigned her homework in a punctuation workbook that I knew would start to correct her problem. Although her attendance was good, she came to most sessions unprepared and without having done the work I assigned her.

An image of a sad student.

With no assignments to go over and correct, I did not know how to occupy the time during our session. Instead of getting angry with her, I asked her to write a composition for twenty minutes. At the end of that time, we critiqued it together. The next time that she came without having completed her homework I again asked her to write a composition for twenty minutes. We then reviewed the piece for mistakes.

After that, she never arrived unprepared again. She realized that it was easier to do part or all of her assignment in the workbook than it was to think of subjects to write about and to hear my review of her composition. Without an angry word, I taught her to complete her homework assignments. At the same time, she taught me how to train students not to arrive unprepared for their appointments.

As a result of completing the punctuation workbook, her ability to punctuate greatly improved. After that first workbook, she completed more than 20 pages in a spelling workbook so that I saw a significant improvement in her spelling.

Life is like that. It teaches us that although we may dislike a task, the consequences of not doing it are greater than the difficulty of original work.

An image of a student studying.

You may hate doing your taxes, but the result of not doing them is far worse than the task of filling out the forms. You may hate paying bills, but the consequence of not paying them is worse. You may dislike washing dishes, but dirty dishes attract ants and roaches. Battling those pests is more difficult than washing dishes and keeping your kitchen clean. Whatever you dislike doing, the consequences of not doing it will teach you to do the task.

You may not be in school, but life continues to teach you. Life is a long training session. As long as we continue to learn, we continue to grow.

An image of a joyful woman.

Psalms 25:4 (NKJV): "Show me Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths."

(Photos courtesy of

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