Bad weather on an early spring day recently pushed me inside for my daily lunchtime walk at the middle school where I work.

I can walk in the cafeteria during my break because, with a schedule shift, my lunchtime is now at about the same time as breakfast for a lot of people. The three lunch periods at the school don’t come for a couple of hours.

It was then, as I came around a corner watching the big flakes of snow come down outside, that I noticed, tucked into a small corner of the big room, a whiteboard. A whiteboard is today’s equivalent of what we used to call chalkboards when chalk was used. You use something called dry erase markers to write on a whiteboard. Yes, everything is different now, and a lot more complicated. Why? I don’t know.

From what I can gather, the advisor running the school’s Young Leadership Club, which apparently meets in the cafeteria, had written with chalk – er, I mean a dry erase marker – the do’s and don’ts of becoming a principled citizen, a responsible teenager.

By the way they were worded, I’m assuming the suggestions were given by the students, and were written verbatim. I like that. Don’t change their words, lest you crush their spirit. Our spirits get crushed soon enough in life.

Schools are a place of learning, growing, thinking, discussing and doing, and I’ve discovered by working in one a lot of valuable lessons, including the fact that the adults, as well as the teens, at various times, the students. Some of the adults may not want to admit that, having thought they had tested out of that role years ago. And that group of learners includes me.

Actually, even though I’m the second-oldest person working in the building, and even though I arrived thinking that I didn’t need to learn anything because I had already seen everything, I get an education each and every day. On a good day, I pass most of my subjects. On the more numerous bad days, I need to do a re-take.

Anyway, the do’s and don’ts were very interesting. I stopped and read every one of them, thought about them, and then read them again, and a third time. I also wrote them down. That makes four times, right?

Each time I read them, I got more out of them, it. As part of that, I realized these lists constituted being the poster child for the fact that adults could also learn from those timeless adages, because we tend to forget them, ignore them, violate them, and form them to fill our wants and needs, not necessarily the proper, grown-up, principled and leadership-driven wants and needs. There’s a big difference.

See what you think.

The do’s were, with the adult translations I have added:

• “Take the necessary steps to be on time and ready to actively participate.” Adult translation: Be responsible and get up 15 minutes earlier. When you get there, try. Engage yourself and your thoughts and opinions because you and they matter not just to you, but also to others and in the big picture. Yeah.

• “Own up to mistakes and be aware of your strengths and weaknesses.” Adult translation: You’re human in that you’re not good at everything nor are you terrible at all things. Honesty – with yourself in understanding you’re somewhere in the middle with just about everyone else – is always the best policy.

• “Be trustworthy and honest.” Adult translation: Honesty gets as many places on the last as it wants. And be someone on whom others can ALWAYS count.

• “Repair the harms you’ve caused.” Adult translation: It’s not a mistake to make one. It is a mistake to fail to fix it.

• “Keep promises.” Adult translation: A promise is a …

• “Help others when you say you will.” Keep your word. It is your true self revealed. It’s like a promise, only not as overstated. It gets right to the point. And those people are counting on you.

• “Give heartfelt apologies when you’ve wronged someone and work toward solutions.” Adult translation: Say you’re sorry and mean it. Then show it.

There weren’t as many don’ts. That’s probably a good thing.


• “Make excuses.” Adult translation: They may be legitimate reasons, which is fine, but no one wants to hear them and you don’t want to hear yourself articulating them.

• “Be late.” Adult translation: It’s a sign of disrespect.

• “Make promises to do things that you can’t keep.” Adult translation: Don’t overbook yourself. You’ll end up making excuses.

• “Do things that are harmful.” Adult translation: Hurts hurt. What if it were you on the receiving end?

Hey, I’ve got to go. Adult translation: I’m a work – a lot of work – in progress.