Every now and then, you meet friends from your past and the topic of your time at school comes up. This means different things for everyone and could be reminiscing on good times, bad times, or just times in general. I had one of those moments recently, however after we parted ways again and I had some time to think, it wasn’t memories like those mentioned above that came to mind, it was my high school motto.
Over the years I was at high school, we had 2 (or 3 maybe, my recall isn’t the best) headteachers, and current residing head teacher arrived during my time there. With each head, they all try and bring their unique spin to the branding I suppose of the school, to put their stamp on it and hopefully improve it while they are there. At the the time, I suppose I barely noticed or acknowledged it and didn’t put too much thought into the meaning or the impact that was intended.
It was only recently that I remembered what it was and started taking it apart in my head and it started to seem very obviously profound.
Respect for: self, learning and others.
At the time of the unveiling, with new (awful) branding and logos placed liberally throughout the school grounds, and I’m sure there were countless assemblies and talks (again, hazy memory) about what the new motto means and how we can embody the sentiment etc. However, at the time I was supremely uninterested — that doesn’t mean I was a bad student, I consider myself a fairly good student, not exactly straight A but I still was fairly underwhelmed by the new unveiling for what ever reason. So now that I’ve had 15 years to mull it over, here’s my take on respect.
Respect for self.
Being selfish is most often thought of as being a bad thing and a negative personality trait. However I challenge that by saying everyone needs to be selectively selfish, which in my head sounds straight forward but it is difficult to put into words — but here goes.
Respecting yourself enough that you know what you’re worth is important, at school, at work, with your friends and family. Understanding that you have every right to be here on this earth the same as they do, in the same job as they do, the same class and so on. A caveat of respecting yourself is not always putting other peoples interests above your own — which I’ve noticed myself doing often — and not self sabotaging because you think other people need you. Don’t get me wrong, helping out friends, family, colleagues or even strangers generally feels good and satisfying, but try not to put your own aspirations, feelings and mental health at risk to do so. Always look out for number one, is a common phrase I’m sure everyone has heard before, and you have to agree with it to a certain extent. If you’re not looking after yourself and respecting yourself, then what ever you’re doing instead (helping others, putting them before yourself) won’t last as long as you won’t last as long, burnout and fatigue are huge and people often hit a point where they aren’t able to provide or help others effectively because of it.
Finding a balance therefore, between being selfish and selfless is so important, the balance will allow everything to keep working together in tandem and hopefully keep everyone happy and healthy.
Respect for learning.
This one hits me quite deep these days. As mentioned, I considered myself a fairly good student, took a wide range of classes as I, like many other adolescent teens, had no idea of what they wanted to be at the time. However, I did have a few really good teachers that allowed me to develop my love for learning, and understanding that everyone has different methods of learning and picks things up at different speeds. It was the understanding the power of knowledge and learning that stuck with me thanks to one of my physics teachers who encouraged everyone to question everything. Constantly ask why, why and why, until you get to a point where you understand what you initially sought to know.
Since high school, I’ve been to university for 5 years (bachelors then masters) and currently rounding up an online certification that I’ve been working on part-time for the last 9 months or so, and I don’t think I’d have been able to achieve/stick with any of that if I hadn’t had a healthy respect and passion for learning as much as I can about what ever I can. That being said, I’m no great scholar, I pride myself on knowing a little about a lot, and being half decent at pub quizzes.
So, to summarise — instilling a respect for learning in terms of the process and how different it is for everyone is incredibly important, while also stressing the emergence of opportunities when you continue to learn and improve your knowledge can not be understated. Obviously it may take some time for people to realise this, but the sooner the better I think.
Respect for others.
I grew up in a fairy middle-class family, and we were brought up well in the sense that we were taught to respect your elders, basic table manners, please/thank yous — the usual suspects. So all my life, I’ve considered myself to be a polite, well-spoken person who is generally likeable. It was only until recent events and the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement that it really got me thinking that this whole time I’ve been complicit and ignorant to the fact that I’ve laughed at things I shouldn’t have and made jokes that — in hindsight — were not ok. I’m sure many other people have had a reality check during this time, which is what I understand is part of the way people can help, by checking themselves and adjusting their views to be more compassionate and then hopefully that change spreads and influences others to review their beliefs/behaviours/judgements etc. I’ve always thought that there should be a golden rule book, unapologetically titled “How not to be a ****” (fill with what ever expletive makes you most comfortable) as all of the various injustices and prejudice in the world boils down to someone being a **** to someone else because of some reason. If everyone just tried to be a better person themselves, they would instantly start treating people better as a result. This over simplistic view is obviously a personal one, and there is no golden rule for creating lasting changes, however it feels good to get out and who knows, maybe this will make someone else think about their own views on the matter and develop a better respect for others — all others.
As I mentioned, this is a trip back in time with my high school headmaster, but the sentiment remains — as does he at the helm of my school. It only took me 15 years to have a good old think about what the motto means to me, personally, and those thoughts will probably change over the next 15 years. However it was a worthwhile trip down memory lane, as it drew me to conclusions and thoughts that I didn’t think I had.
It goes without saying that all of the ideas and thoughts presented in this article are my own and everyone has and will have their own views on what respect means to them and find their own examples — which is all I can hope for.
I’ll leave you to think about any high school, cub scout, university motto — or any proverb that you may remember. Have a think about it, what does it mean to you?