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Life Lessons: Educator’s Edition…Andrea Houston-Lingman


Life Lessons: Educator’s Edition…
Andrea Houston-Lingman

Welcome to a special edition of Good Enough Mother Life Lessons! With school right around the corner, we thought it would be great to devote some time and space to the people who are so good to our kids.. educators! Hope you enjoy these special Life Lessons and happy school year to teacher, students AND their parents!

Are you happy at the moment?

Now, at this moment in my life, I have never been happier. I’ve enjoyed some time off from the rigors of the classroom, have watched my kids have some summer fun, spent time with my husband (sans kids!) and am gearing up for an exciting new school year. New schools for each kid (one moves to high school, the other moves to middle school)and new positions at our places of work for my husband and me…what an exciting time of life!

If you could go back and say anything to your 16-year-old self now – what would it be?

Actually, I say this to my 16 to 17-year-old students each year: high school is HARD! These are in NO WAY “the best years of your life”! You are stressed, overworked, and not one choice made about your life is your own. Teachers, parents, bosses and coaches rule your world right now, and that, my friends, is truly draining.

Get to the point where you have a little cash in your pocket, when you can choose what you want to do in life for yourself: do you want to quit that job? Do you want to get another degree? Do you want to move to another city, another state, another country?

Once you get there, those are the best years of your life because you own them.

Until then? Carry on; do your best. Everyone in the same situation as you is feeling the same amount of stress right now. Some just don’t show it. 😉

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned this year?

This year, I’ve learned that revision of the written word can make all the difference in some very important situations. College application essays, applications for scholarships and even letters of intent for a promotion can all come down to who expresses him- or herself better.

I’ve known that for a long time, however, having taught 100 high school seniors this past year really made this point clearer for me. Lots of students are great; lots of them excel at something. How they make that known to the recipient of their written word is what sets them apart from the others in the pool.

What do you most want to achieve in the next 12 months?

This year, I am in a unique position in that it’s my first year as a Curriculum Coordinator as well as a teacher. As such, I need to not only ensure the success of the students in my own classroom, but I also need to help ensure the success of the thousands of students in my school district as well as the dozens of teachers who will lead them this year.

What’s your secret to happiness?

The secret to happiness? That is a great question!

Let go of whatever is out of your control; you cannot change it, so why allow it to siphon your energy toward a useless endeavor?

Whatever is within your control? Own it. Do your best at all times. Remain positive, optimistic and determined to not only do the best for yourself but also for everyone else who relies on you as well.

When things don’t work out the way you would have liked them to—which happens, at times—be comforted by the fact that you did your very best.

This works at home, with family, at work and with colleagues. Heck, this even works when you’re playing a game of cards. If you’ve done your best, then you can always be happy with the work you’ve done, no matter the outcome of any situation.

What one ritual or practice keeps you grounded?

Ah, this one is easy. As a junior high teacher (10 years) and a high school teacher (10 years) as well as a mom of a tween and a teen, I can honestly say that simply having an honest conversation with any of these kids keeps me grounded. They tell it like it is.

Being reminded that their world is so much smaller than ours, and that so many things that now seem so insignificant to us adults are really very important to them means that I see myself through their eyes as well as those of my peers.  Listening to the needs of kids which are often just like those we all had at their ages—yet are sometimes so much more complicated—reminds me of my small, steady place in the universe. I’m here to guide.

That is all. 🙂

What’s your biggest regret?

I don’t have one.  (Seriously, I don’t.)

If I’ve acted to the best of my ability with the information I had at the time I made a decision, then it would be foolish of me to second-guess those choices now.  Besides, some of the mistakes I’ve made have led me to a really great place in life, a place where I simply would not be were it not for having ended up on a path I had not originally envisioned.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve taught your kid(s)?

Hmm. I think there may be two most important lessons I’ve taught my kids.

One is to always think about what another person may have gone through to get to where he or she is at this moment.  Maybe the road was rougher than yours and that’s why the other guy isn’t so nice. Teachable moments are everywhere.

Another? Buy at bargain prices! My kids know to skip the full price racks and head to the sale rounders in any store. What is full price today will be on sale in two weeks. Wait a little. You’ll be glad you did.

What bad habit would you most like to change about yourself?

I do tend to second-guess myself (Should I have admitted that?) so perhaps I should try to stop that weakness. (Is my admitting a habit a weakness? Should I have just skipped this question? Wouldn’t skipping it be a disservice to my kids and my students? Should I just stop questioning?)

Aside from motherhood/fatherhood and marriage what are you most proud of in your life?

Aside from my two GREAT kids and having married the love of my life—my high school sweetheart—I’m proud that I have helped kids fall in love with words.  Literature, drama, essay-writing…they’re all the same jackpot. I’m proud that there are hundreds more kids out there who appreciate and understand a reference to Hamlet or To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s fulfilling to know that my former students can find that perfect word to finish a letter or realize that through revision their writer’s voice has made an essay truly their own. I am proud to have helped so many kids utilize the richness of language in their daily lives.

When were you happiest?

Wow. You guys go for the jugular!

I am happiest now.

Had you asked me that five years ago, I would have had the same answer. Ask me five years from now, and I hope to say the same thing.

Happiness, for me, comes from accepting what I cannot change and striving to do the best in that in which I can make a difference. Kids, school, marriage, friendships, scholarship? Do your best and you have to be happy. Even if you’d like things to be different, you’ll know that there is nothing that you could have done to change them, so just accept that and be happy that you tried your best.

What ten words best describe you?

Optimistic. Energetic. Funny. Dedicated. Driven. Loyal. Creative. Enthusiastic. Passionate. Kind

What is the best way parents can help you in the coming year?

Teaching high school students is quite different than teaching middle or elementary school kids, so what I need may be surprising. For this age group, I need parents to be supportive of their children’s needs, but to allow their kids to become more independent.

That’s a tough sell. (I’m a parent, I know.) Particularly in those transitional years, when kids move from elementary to middle school or from middle to high school, that first year should really be about making sure that the child makes a successful transition. This includes leaving behind behaviors that belong in the other building. Consider the goal at the end of the year, then work backwards, trying to establish habits and patterns that will result in success by year’s end. You’ve taught them to walk, now let go of their hands and watch them learn to run.

My freshmen, for example, need to successfully write down their homework assignments in their assignment books, complete them on time and bring them in by their due date. They should learn to study for tests several nights in advance, not the night before them. These habits will yield a well-organized, prepared student who can handle the increasingly more challenging workload and schedule of the upper years in high school.

My seniors, on the other hand, need to learn to take full ownership of their academic careers. They’ll be making the transition to college, where their professors will expect them to be able to function well on their own. My goal is to make myself progressively unnecessary as the school year unfolds. Academically, parents need to try to do the same.

In short, parent your school-aged children in a way that not only supports their own unique needs, but also ensures that they’ll be successful when you’re not there to remind them. This, after all, is my goal, too.

Andrea Houston-Lingman is the English / Language Arts Curriculum Coordinator for Middle School and High School at a Pennsylvania public school district. Having taught English classes from 7th-12th grade for twenty years, she currently teaches Acting, Directing, Public Speaking and Advanced Placement English Literature at one of her district’s high schools.

Together with her husband of over 20 years, Andrea is raising a teen daughter and a tween son; as such, her work and home lives consist of navigating the sometimes-rocky seas that is life amongst adolescents.




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