It was the first day of the new school year, and I was eagerly awaiting my final period of the day—language arts. When the time finally came, I sat with my friends in the back of the room, and the class proceeded as expected for the first day of school: teacher introductions, ice breakers, and an overview of the syllabus. In the final few minutes of class, the teacher announced that our first rhetorical analysis was due the following day. This stopped me in my tracks. I had no idea what a rhetorical analysis was. I’m not even sure I knew what “rhetorical” meant. When I got home, I read and reread articles, scratched out a few words, and tried to find answers on the internet. I spent over four hours writing a one-page paper. During the next class, I grumbled with my fellow students about the difficulty of this task. The teacher, after collecting our papers, went to the front of the room and turned to us. “I’m sure you’re wondering why I asked you to write a paper you knew nothing about.” There was a round of vigorous head nodding. “We are going to learn about rhetorical analysis today. I know you will always remember this lesson, because, sometimes, we learn best after we make mistakes.”

It’s been nearly six years since that day, yet his words still ring true. I think of all the times in school where I’ve missed a problem on a test or been critiqued in an observation. I always remember with perfect clarity what I need to change for the next time. I’ve learned only recently that this, growing from our mistakes and overcoming our failures, is an integral part of developing character. David O. Mckay once said about character, “[it] is the aim of true education . . . An upright character is the result of continued effort and right thinking, the effect of long-cherished association with God-like thoughts.”

I’ve wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. And as a teacher, it is my job to help my students deepen their own character. After all, what better and safer place to make mistakes and grow than the classroom? However, building character is not a one-time event. Instead, it “. . . is the result of continued effort . . . ” It is dependent on a series of experiences, events, and attitudes that are shaped and refined over time. Though I can’t force students to develop their character, I can provide a safe educational environment where students are tested, collaboration is encouraged, and mistakes are celebrated. An environment where character can grow. I imagine our Heavenly Father had a similar desire when he sent us to Earth. Because He loved us so much, our Heavenly Father gave us a place where we can make mistakes, learn, and become better. With this same lens of love, I look forward to helping my students increase their character each and every day.