Be a good student. Why? Because that is what God is requiring of you as a teenager that is the task at hand for you right now. It is an obligation of your parents under the law that you be enrolled and attending school until your 18th birthday and/or you graduate from high school.
Whether you are homeschooled, in public school or a private school, or a private Christian school, or Independent Study, the important thing is to do the best in the situation you are in and that means being a good student. But there is so much more to be gained from being a good student than just following the law.
The late President Theodore Roosevelt said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Always, do the best you can where you are. You will find that mantra will take you far in life. You will also learn that that mantra extends into each and every day of every adult life.
Further, for the Christian, God adds more detail of what is required of us:
8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good;
And what doth the Lord require of thee,
But to do justly, and to love mercy,
And to walk humbly with thy God?
You will learn that to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God requires the best from each of us day in and day out.
Moreover, there is something uniquely intriguing about do your best for God, day in and day out. You never know what God may bring about, in His Providence along the way, from putting forth your best, from what you have learned, from the social interactions you have as a child growing into a teenager, and in your teenage years.
The picture above, of the suspension bridge, is a symbol of the path each of us takes to our respective future.
Sometimes, it’s a bit scary being on this bridge—the path to your future. We each hope to be on the bridge that leads to our future—that the bridge to our future will enable us to skip over unnecessary experiences and trials. After all, that is the purpose of a bridge—a structure that allows us to skip over certain terrain that would bring about additional obstacles on our path.
However, we cannot see where exactly this bridge leads to. We know from the mapping and cataloging of others where the bridge is supposed to lead us.
In much the same way, you don’t know where your educational path will take you. You may have objectives, goals, and plans but you cannot be sure when, how, and if those objectives, goals, and plans will be realized in the future.
While we have the cataloging, mapping, and career guidance of many years of professionals, only 46% of college graduates actually work in their field of study; and college students, on average, change their major 3 times over the course of their college career.
All this may seem discouraging to the investment of time and treasure you will put into your education plan but let every situation be a learning experience for you; do not discount your experiences, however trivial they may appear.
Additionally, sometimes learning to do what you resist and detest to do can help you learn more about yourself than doing those things you enjoy.
Sometimes, you have to learn about things you don’t particularly care about or agree with so you can then learn and understand something that is important to you.
We have all heard it: There are two sides to every story, just as there are two sides to every coin. Yet, more realistically, there are three sides to every coin, the heads and tails—the top and bottom—and the thickness that circumscribes, or surrounds, those two sides.
Likewise, in any situation, there are two conflicting or opposing viewpoints. But circumscribing these viewpoints is the complete story of God’s omniscience and what He wills for each of our lives.
Thus, we need to keep in mind:
31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
We all want to be successful. But success also requires discipline; and that means completing things you have to do in order to do the things you enjoy doing.
The surgeon is excited to complete this complex open-heart surgery today. Yet, one thing he must do is scrub his hands and arms as best he can before surgery to help maintain the patient and the surgery room sterile as much as possible.
The helicopter pilot will be completing a long and challenging flight path today with several passengers. But before he can leave the ground, he must check out all the systems on the helicopter to make sure they are in good working order. Otherwise, his flight could very well end in disaster. He is entrusted with the entire responsibility of getting passengers from one point to another safely.
Likewise, you may have something that you consider dumb and boring to do, such as chores around the house. But if you would just get these done each week, without having to be reminded or nagged about it by your parents, you’re on your way to demonstrating that you are maturing and have integrity because you can demonstrate that you can do what you must; you can take orders; follow instructions on those orders; and, if you assume responsibility for the task, you can demonstrate personal integrity by completing the task with little or no direction in the future.
Further, if you can get your ‘must dos’ out of the way, then you can move on to do what you want to do and enjoy doing.
Consider your God-given potential. Now, I don’t know your God-given potential. Oddly enough, even at the age of 61, I don’t believe that I have still realized the full extent of my God-given potential. Strangely enough, neither will you.
Each of us is born with potential—qualities that exist within us. But this potential—these qualities or skills—have not yet been developed or manifested in us. But they have the capacity to become or develop into something in the future. Realizing your potential will both contribute to and frame your success and give you an enduring sense of purpose that too many have not yet realized. Sadly, too few will ever realize their potential.
How do we realize this potential? It is not by sitting around and wondering and guessing what it might be; it is by doing, experiencing, and, sometimes, discussing those experiences with others.
You will hear of high school graduates, undecided about entering college, taking what is called a gap year—taking a year or more off from beginning college to ‘discover’ oneself.
While a gap year is not entirely a negative thing, to be beneficial it does require that you engage in some activity that will cause you to explore your potential further. But herein lies the problem: Whatever you engage in during this ‘gap year’, it should not distract you from focusing on and building your potential. Rather, it should help you to, at a minimum, ‘scratch the surface’ of your potential.
Moreover, you cannot realize your potential through mere contemplation; it comes about by doing, by engaging in the experiences of life.
Even Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, explains that to petition His help and guidance we need to engage in action. Notice the three action verbs in the verses below:
7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
At times, you may be opposed to what you are being taught or experiencing. Within reason, it is sometimes helpful to learn about opposing views, so you can learn where they have erred, so that you know how to counter them at a future time.
In your life, you will constantly be bombarded with do this, do that, consider this, or consider that, this is why you should question yourself: “Why am I doing this? Is this necessary as a steppingstone to get me where I want or need to be?” Hearing what you are opposed to can help you to understand why you are opposed to it. This, in turn, helps you understand, then, what you believe in, what you are about.
39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
Allow me to share with you what God taught me along the path of my life. I failed 3rd grade math. I could not learn my times tables especially the sevens and the nines; nor were my parents able to help me. The private Christian school I was attending required that you learn and commit to memory all times tables up through 12 times 12.
What is so significant about that? I understand, it may not seem significant, but it was for me. By 8th grade I was doing well in math and was actually learning algebra I, doing well at it, and enjoying it.
Yet, I would still have no idea what God was going to have in store for me. As a freshman in a public high school, I took Algebra 1 and did well at it.
But then, as a sophomore, I went on to Geometry and this is where I found a niche that I excelled in even further. In the most difficult parts of geometry, applying theorems to create valid proofs, I did remarkably well, so much so that my teacher would have me go around and help others with their geometry questions.
I loved completing proofs; I was challenged by them and would spend hours at home, sometimes, trying to work out an exceptionally difficult proof because I loved the challenge in trying to figure it out. I understood using theorems to prove things.
Later, I would come to understand that completing geometric proofs laid the foundation to make me a better writer. Yes, I also had difficulty writing essays. When we write an essay, we begin with our thesis—what we are trying to prove or demonstrate. Then, in the body we have our supporting information, our statements of proof.
The most notable difference between a geometric proof and an essay is that an essay is also filled with words that make the thesis and supporting information flow, readable, and understandable even to the person who knows nothing of the topic.
But it wouldn’t stop there. I was asked by my high school math teacher if I would join Mathletes. I told him I would think about it but, in my mind, I was thinking “Ew! I don’t want to be a ‘math geek!’
Upon graduating high school, my father wanted me to study civil engineering because I was good at math. He owned and operated a general engineering construction company and felt that if I was a civil engineer, I could be an even greater asset to his construction company by understanding the reading of blueprints and specifications better and improve upon our contract estimates.
However, estimation incorporates sales and negotiation. I had a strong distaste for salesmanship and negotiation; my heart was not in it. I was sincere in the bids I developed and felt angry and betrayed when I was asked to negotiate.
Still, however, I would wind up dropping out of college, working in my father’s construction business for the next 20 years, going back to college while married with children, finishing a bachelor’s degree in social science, completing a teaching credential, and becoming a teacher of math—algebra 1 and geometry—which I did for about 8 years. I loved it. I loved working with teenagers and helping them learn math.
But before you think that going from failing math to teaching math is the complete story, please understand that teaching math to teenagers was only an impetus to a further and much deeper experience that God was preparing me for.
During my years teaching math over a period of 8 years, I also, strangely, had 5 different girls come to me and tell me, “Mr. Royster, I’m pregnant and I don’t know what to do. You’re the first one I’ve told.”
Of course, we first addressed: “How did this happen?” Yes, that question would always, hilariously, raise eyebrows like I didn’t know where babies came from. But, as a mandated reporter, it was important that I determine if the pregnancy occurred due to rape or cooperatively with the young lady’s consent given to a known male, even though she is not at the age of consent under law.
Then, we would discuss telling her parents and how to go about that. Also, with each of these girls, we were fortunate that abortion was never even a consideration. They seemed to know already that they were carrying within them a developing child, not a Latin-named fetus, not a clump of tissue, but a baby, another human life.
But the question remains, “Why did these girls come to me?” I was not their high school counselor. They certainly had the option of going to their high school counselors. There were five of them at the school we were at, and all of whom were females. Why did they not go to a fellow female about this? What motivated them to confide in me with this most personal of dilemmas that they were in?
Yet, at this critical time in their lives they chose to come to me, an adult male, who was not a trained professional school counselor at the time. Why? They saw within me a capacity that I did not see within myself nor that I would ever have imagined for myself.
But those girls, and their parents, were appreciative of my help, comfort, and support. Through each of these experiences, and many more like them that students, male and female, would come to me with, God, in His Divine Providence, would show me that He had blessed me with the ability to listen, comfort, and support others, especially teenage girls, through life-changing hardships in their lives.
The undeniable truth remains that God has blessed me as a man with the capacity to have compassion upon and support others, to help them work through their personal struggles—to realize my God-given potential. Thus, I went on to become a professional high school counselor, whereby I could use my gifts more fully to serve teenagers.
One of the hardest things to work through with a student, and that I even discussed with some adults, is regret—regret that you did not seize on the opportunities presented to you. For this very reason, it is important to do your best in all that you learn, in all the opportunities presented to you, in all your experiences.
To regret is self-annihilation to one’s motivation. Regret, put simply, has been cancer to every individual I have come across, including myself. We all have cancer cells within us. But, for some reason, in certain individuals, those cancer cells begin to overtake the healthy cells within our bodies.
We will all miss out on at least one opportunity in our lives; some of us will allow the denial of opportunity to overtake us and it will annihilate our motivation and God-given potential, unless we address it.
In talking with people out in the world and telling them that I was an educator, there were plenty who expressed regret for not taking high school seriously, or, in some cases, it was even just finishing high school.
Some admitted that their high school years were an extremely difficult time in their lives. I never met anybody, however, who was glad that they never finished high school or that they didn’t seize upon every opportunity before them. I did, however, hear from many who spoke of the bitterness that regret played in their lives from not seizing on opportunities or exploring their God-given potential.
I learned so much from the teaching and learning paradigm about being an educator, about my God-given potential. It was not from my teacher education program but rather from my experience in the classroom. However, I had to complete the teacher education program to get to where I could work in a classroom; it was an important steppingstone.
When you have to teach to others something you already know how to do, but struggled to learn, it forces you to look at the concepts from their perspective which, in turn, helps you to frame the teaching paradigm question: “What can I do to better increase their understanding of the concept?”
I learned that, yes, it is my responsibility to teach my students. On the other hand, it is the responsibility of each and every student to apply themselves to learn. I can teach but I cannot make one learn; it requires their cooperation, engagement, and participation. I can, however, use my knowledge and skill as an educator to influence their learning.
I learned also that it was important that I explained this concept to my students at the beginning of the year; that their success in my class requires effort on their part.
Finally, I had seniors in high school who would come to me after their senior year was underway and confess: “Mr. Royster, I don’t want to graduate from high school?” We can all think of at least one teenager who said, “Ugh, I can’t wait to grow up!” So, why would seniors in high school not want to graduate?
The answer is simple. Since kindergarten, their ‘duty’ in life has been defined for them under law—compulsory education through the 12th grade or graduation from high school.
These teenagers, however, saw that ‘the fuse had been lit’ on their future. They saw now that, as I would tell them, they suffer from the same terminal illness that I have—the inevitability of aging. They are standing on the bridge to their future and cannot see were, exactly, it leads. But the bridge is swaying and tipping, threatening to throw them off. The best they can do is move forward to the end of the bridge to see where it leads.
Now, they must decide, they must explore, they must experience. Had they seized on more opportunities while in high school, they might know more about themselves and their potential.
Regardless, it is up to them to realize their God-given potential. There is hope and there is help, however. They can ask, seek, and knock for God’s Will and guidance in their lives through prayer. God will help them realize, and do, their very best.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
 The Holy Bible: King James Version (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Mic 6:8). (2009). Logos Research Systems, Inc.  The Holy Bible: King James Version (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., 1 Co 10:31). (2009). Logos Research Systems, Inc.  The Holy Bible: King James Version (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Mt 7:7–8). (2009). Logos Research Systems, Inc.  The Holy Bible: King James Version (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Jn 5:39). (2009). Logos Research Systems, Inc.  The Holy Bible: King James Version (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Ro 8:28). (2009). Logos Research Systems, Inc.