Four Lessons I Learned from My Students — Saga Education

January 11, 2022

As a Saga Fellow, we go through an extensive training program focused on the best ways to teach and build relationships with our students. What I didn’t expect was that I would learn four key life lessons from them.

1. What Real Work Ethic Looks Like

As a student, I always heard that the key to success was hard work. However, this statement never made much of an impact on me. It was not until I began working with my students at Sullivan High School in Chicago, IL that I saw what hard work and determination look like. Despite the remote setting, each one of my students came to Math Lab with a goal that they had set for themselves. I watched as they worked through each goal and solved problems through trial and error while pushing aside any frustration or doubt. Their work ethic never failed to surprise me, and I find myself following their example when I am faced with a difficult task.

2. How to Time Manage

Time management was a skill I always found myself lacking. In this day and age, the amount of distractions are endless, and prioritizing tasks was difficult for me. My students showed me that it is possible to make time for important obligations without sacrificing self-care and enjoyment. The majority of my students had family, professional and religious obligations outside of their academics. Despite their busy schedules, their assignments were almost always completed on time, and to the best of their abilities. If they had issues, they always communicated any delays to me. I try to incorporate their time management skills whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed with tasks or distracted.

3. Never Be Afraid to Ask 

As a soft-spoken person growing up, I always felt ashamed or shy to ask questions on topics I was struggling with in school. I realized that this timidness was putting me at a great disadvantage, and knew that it was something I wanted to change about myself. My students at Sullivan not only showed me that there is no shame in asking questions, but being persistent with those questions is also necessary at times. Speaking up about concerns and troubles they were experiencing and applying the answers was the key to their growth. The lesson I learned was that I didn’t have to struggle on my own, and reaching out to someone is a great tool to have.

4. Setback or Opportunity? 

The last, but most valuable, lesson I learned from my service year was the importance of optimism. The majority of my students had immigrated to the United States to seek better opportunities. Some had moved as recently as the year before, and others had moved when they were in younger grades. Regardless, making a big transition like immigrating can be very hard on a young person especially during these crucial developmental years. However, my students never brought anything other than a positive and optimistic attitude to the table. I always felt such joy from speaking with them, because these students saw setbacks as opportunities. Now, I try to see things that don’t go as planned as lessons and opportunities to better myself for the future.

When I began my service year, I did not want to set any expectations for how the year might turn out. My main goal was to be of help in any way that I could; whether it was for the students, my team or the other teachers at school. But in the end, I realized that the students I served were the most inspirational and helpful in my journey. These young people taught me lessons that I will carry with me throughout the rest of my life.

Lina Aldadah (she/her) is a law student studying at New England Law School in Boston, MA. She served as a Saga Fellow at Sullivan High School in Chicago, IL from 2020-2021.