It's interesting how when we are young and going through school, we don't realize which educators are going to have the most impact on us once we leave school. We often don't recognize at the time the importance of the "unspoken" lessons we gain. It's not just the subject we are taught, it is those unspoken LIFE lessons that we remember and apply to create the success we seek in our lives.
I had a teacher in high school that I still fondly remember today. Not for the subject she taught, but for her presence, her values and her expectations. She clearly demonstrated how to do the work, and then left us on our own to complete it. She expected honesty, and held you to a high standard. She took a stand for our potential and kept raising the bar in what we "thought" we could do. She was tough in terms of her expectations, but fair.
She was impeccable in her appearance. Although she didn't teach us about image, she always looked professional and radiated the image of someone successful. It was never talked about, but through her example, she demonstrated professionalism just through her presence and her example.
Leaving us on our own to complete the work is a skill that is important in the 21st century. If you didn't complete this work, you couldn't fake it.....you either knew the work or you didn't, there was no middle ground. It developed a high level of personal responsibility in us because you didn't want to get caught not doing your homework, but as I look back, more importantly we didn't want to disappoint her. It taught us to be accountable to ourselves and to do what we committed to doing. If one person didn't keep up, it would hold the class back, so you didn't want to be that person.
Her expectation of honesty was vital. I was working over 30 hours per week in a part time job while going to school. One night I was exhausted and fell asleep doing the homework for her class. There was no time before class to get this done and I was afraid to tell her, but, more afraid to not tell her and have her find out. Prior to class i went to her privately and told her what had happened. She very sternly looked at me, and said "I find that hard to believe that you would fall asleep doing shorthand homework". Initially, I thought I was in trouble for telling the truth, but she quickly smiled and said, thank you for being honest and telling me, it's fine, just get yourself caught up. She had a big smile and I saw the tough expectation blended with the human compassion side of her.
She used to time our shorthand speed. She would tell us what previous records were in classes she taught prior. Initially her goal was to get us up to that speed. Once we were, she stretched us and challenged us to do better than that. It taught me to not settle, to continue to raise the bar of what is possible and keep challenging myself to do better.
Something else that stood out is how respected she was by her colleagues. She had a high level of ethics, integrity, and values, and you could feel the respect her colleagues had for her. Although she didn't teach about leadership, she demonstrated it in everything she did, and gained respect from students and teachers alike.
My work is in leadership education. Today I had a breakthrough. This came about because of a group discussion I was in on LI a few weeks ago, where the question was asked "who was the best teacher you have ever had and why". I hadn't thought about this before, but I immediately knew it was this teacher, and responded to the discussion with a brief answer, and then felt compelled to explore this more and write this article. I was reflecting on the impact she had on me. It wasn't the subject she taught me that had the biggest impact. It was who she was being and the examples she set. In very simple terms, she took a stand for our greatness. There are no accidents in life. This is exactly what my life work is....taking a stand for others greatness, helping others reach their full human potential, while demonstrating the highest of ethics, values, integrity and leadership. I didn't realize until today this connection, why this work resonates with me so much, where that desire came from, and the gift this teacher provided me with. She planted a seed in me that grew. We get to where we are because of the people and the things that inspire us along the way. Don't ever underestimate the impact YOU can have on other people's lives. Thank you Mrs. Ward....wherever you are today.....
Debbie Ruston has been an entrepreneur and trainer since 1986. She works with individuals, and groups interested in developing their entrepreneurial leadership mindset. Was this article of value to you? Feel free to share it on your social networks and with your contacts, join in the discussion below, and FOLLOW her on the top right corner of this page.
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Debbie Ruston - Entrepreneur - International Trainer, Visionary Leader