Last week we discussed a project manager who could almost never lose work he pursued because he changed how he built and managed client relationships.
Now, think of all the teachers you have had in your life. There was preschool, elementary school, middle school, high school, college and even postgraduate. Then, count how many of these teachers truly helped in changing your life; the ones who you couldn’t wait to see and learn from or be inspired by.
In my 20 or so years of sitting in a classroom I can only think of two. That is it. Only two teachers in my entire life left a lasting impact. The first was a high school history teacher. Although I can’t say I had too much interest in the study of history, what resonated with 16-year-old James was I had never encountered someone, especially a teacher, who possessed such an overwhelming exuberance and love for what they did. This teacher was not going through the motions like most I encountered in the Arizona public school system, but instead approaching education with a fresh plan.
It took another four years for me to meet another teacher who would impact and even fundamentally shift my direction in life. This professor at my alma mater essentially was the antithesis of what you imagine a tenured college educator to be.
His daily attire consisted of oversized Hawaiian shirts and shorts with these Frankenstein-monster-esc orthopedic Velcro shoes. His routine involved hour long naps before his afternoon classes.
One the first day of school each year he would pass out a syllabus, as the department required him to. That was typically the last time you would ever see that piece of paper or really any resemblance of a schedule.
His lectures were anything but. Sometimes he would just want to look at photos for an hour in near silence. Other times he would just get lost in his seemingly nonsensical stories of his life.
Now you may be thinking, how could anyone learn in that environment? How could his approach possibly be positive for his students?
Sure, a handful of students viewed him as an easy A to help their college GPA – which he was.
But in the years I knew him I witnessed him change so many of his student’s lives for the better. From putting in a call to the LA Times to get a graduate a job, to guiding another student to achieve their (unknown at the time) goal of becoming a teacher.
For me, without this professor, I would have never worked in marketing (a job he helped me get), I would never have done public speaking (something he pushed me into) and most importantly, I would have never been a photographer as he refused to let me put down the camera.
By being different, by changing how teaching was done, the department who probably felt threatened by what he did and how he did it, made things uncomfortable for him thus “unofficially” pushing him into retirement.
Sadly he did pass away shortly after that, but when he was alive, nothing seemed to make him happier than hearing on how his students were successful after college.
Stay tuned for next week’s conclusion to the catalyst and consequences of change.