Lessons can be taught in many different ways. One can learn a lesson from others, like in “Thank you Ma’am” by Langston Hughes. One could learn from advice from more experienced people, as in “Directions for Resisting the SAT” by Richard Hague, or in “First Practice” by Gary Gildner. Finally, one can also learn from the past, like in the play, “Dance of the Holy Ghosts”, written by Marcus Gardley. Each learning experience is unique and has certain benefits the others cannot offer.
Langston Hughes’ poem “Thank You Ma’am” surprises the reader in many ways. A teenager is caught trying to steal an old woman’s purse, and her reaction is very unusual. Rather than being afraid or angry, the woman sets out to teach the boy a lesson. Through her affection, she teaches him not to steal to get money. One would think that she would call the police to teach him a lesson; rather she takes responsibility into her own hands. She knows she is more capable of teaching him an important lesson than the law. She understands something must be missing in his life, which she attempts to fill for the brief time they spend together. By sharing a meal and talking to him as a real person, and understanding his needs, the old lady is able to teach the boy more effectively than one would think.
Richard Hague teaches another unusual lesson in his poem. In a time where SAT’s are thought to be a “make or break” factor, Hague uses humor and hyperbole to try to teach students not stress out about the SATs, which is simply a test. Instead of directly saying this, he uses hyperbole to overstate what students should do. He suggests they do crazy things, in addition to not worrying so much about the SATs. This is a very successful way of giving advice. The over exaggeration of his other suggestions helps the reader realize how ludacris the stress around the SATs are.
“First Practice” features an overzealous coach who inspires his team through fear. His way of encouraging them is by yelling, and calling them “girls”. He reminds them of how much they dislike losing to teach them a lesson about winning. Sometimes, being tough is the best way to instill information in people’s minds. Some people find the anger to be an excellent motivation.
However, the most effective teacher is experience. Most lessons have to be learned oneself. In “Dance of the Holy Ghosts” a musician Oscar is haunted by his past mistakes every day. His grandson, who he has not seen in years, comes back into his life suddenly, to tell him his only daughter has died. Oscar immediately has flashbacks of his dark past. Throughout the play, he struggles to overcome the demons from the past. In the end, he is able to learn from his past mistakes and do the right thing- perform at his daughters’ funeral. It was painful for him, but lessons often are. Even as an older man, there were still lessons he needed to learn and challenges to face.
Lessons can be learned in many different ways, and at any time in life. No matter what age, one can always learn more. Sometimes these lessons come easy, by seeing others make mistakes. More often, unfortunately, these mistakes are often made ourselves. However, for each mistake there is a lesson learned, and from each lesson there is growth. In each story or poem, a character experiences growth from a lesson they learned- easy or hard.