Lance Meier: Follow the four compass points
“Pursue your personal legend” was the message graduating seniors heard at commencement last Thursday.
Keynote speaker Lance Meier urged the students to “become what you’re destined to be” by following the four compass points of companions, compassion, courage and character.
The Century Junior High teacher was chosen to speak at commencement by a poll taken of the senior class.
Many of the students had taken Meier’s careers class in junior high, where they’d heard plenty of life advice: Your job is 90,000 hours of your life. Find something that will not make you miserable. Passion plus excellence equals happiness. If you find a job you love, you never work a day in your life.
“Careers class is a good vehicle to talk about life stuff,” Meier said. “We cover psychology and sociology, development of identity and the forces that have shaped you.”
With 35 students in class, Meier said, it’s highly likely that some of them have been hit with tragedy and loss.
Meier calls it the four Ds: death, destruction (e.g., of friendships), divorce and disease. Last year he had two students in his class whose fathers had died. Some of his students were dealing with serious injuries or cancer, either their own or in their families.
He uses this fact to teach his students not to be too quick to judge people. “Be careful what you’re judging,” he admonishes. “You don’t know anybody’s story.”
He tells of his own experience with a close friend, one of the groomsmen at his wedding. They got to know each other after they had already been through junior high together.
But “I didn’t talk to him in junior high,” Meier said. “I thought he was a dirtball.”
Meier graduated from Forest Lake High School in 1987, served in the U.S. Army and finished his education with a master’s degree. He worked at the Lakes Area Youth Service Bureau for three years as a youth counselor and has been teaching in the school district for 16 years.
The first few years he taught geography, but he’s been the careers teacher at Century for the past 10 years.
The class was a good fit for his philosophy of life and his skill set.
“It was totally a life class,” Meier said.
But the careers class will disappear next year, victim of changing state standards for social studies.
Meier will be teaching human geography next year. It may be tougher to tie character education and goal setting to geography, but he’s willing to try.
“Storytelling in the classroom is really powerful,” he said.
Meier does public speaking for the Naval Sea Cadets, American Legion and VFW, including Memorial Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day events.
He is active in Linwood Covenant Church, where he runs the sound booth and volunteers for an Awana program for grades three to six.
He wrote a new speech for this event, Meier said. The term “personal legend” is from a favorite book of his, “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho.