Great Expectations – Great teachers make the difference

“If you treat people as they are, they’ll be what they are.  If you treat them as they could be, they’ll become what you want them to be.”

– David Maurer

I was inspired to write this morning by Carmine Gallo’s Column in Business Week Magazine: “A Teacher’s Lessons for Business Leaders”. This is a story about an exceptional teacher, Ron Clark and how he made a difference in the lives of the students in his Harlem, NY fifth-grade class.

“Ron Clark taught elementary school in North Carolina. After watching a program about a New York City school that had a hard time attracting qualified teachers, he decided to head to New York with the goal of teaching in one of its toughest schools. Clark eventually landed a job doing just that—in Harlem. He asked if he could teach a class of fifth-graders who had been performing at a second-grade level. The school’s administrators wanted to give him the gifted class, but Clark insisted on the underperforming students. In one school year, Clark’s fifth-grade class outperformed the gifted class. Clark became Disney’s teacher of the year, a best-selling author, an Oprah guest, and the subject of a made-for-TV movie, The Ron Clark Story, starring Matthew Perry.”

I didn’t know about Ron Clark before today. But I have had several Ron Clark’s in my life. A teacher or mentor who had a strong belief in my abilities. Someone who knew that I was capable of doing more than what I was producing. Someone who opened a door – that I didn’t even knew existed – and pushed me across the threshold.

The teachers and mentors who most influenced my life and career never told me “what” to do. They inspired me to learn more, to do more, to become more curious because they showed me “why” it mattered.

And so it is with Ron Clark and his students. (A further quotation for the Business Week article:)

“Explain why before how. “It’s not enough to set a goal,” Clark told me. “You need to tell your students why it’s important to reach that goal. For my students, it meant a better future. I told them why they needed to know a certain subject, how it would be an advantage to them in their lives.”

When it comes to inspiring your employees, the “why” is also often more important than the “how.” Why should they exceed quarterly sales goals? Why should they improve customer service scores? Show your team how accomplishing these goals will improve their lives as well as the lives of those around them.”

Ron Clark was named the Disney Teacher of the Year 2001.  One of my favorite quotes comes from Walt Disney:

“If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started by a mouse.”

I needed help to achieve my dreams. I was fortunate to have loving parents, teachers and mentors to help me along the way. Now it is my turn to do the same.

On my website, I pay tribute to my parents and mentors. Here is a link to the videos.

“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Others stay awhile, make footprints on our hearts and we are never, ever the same.” 

– Anonymous

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