TEACHERS; AT LEAST KNOW MY NAME!
By Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, September 20, 2016
“The most precious thing of all, however, if you have made the most of your chance, is the uplift, encouragement, inspiration, which you have absorbed from your teachers, from your associations;
this is the embodiment of the college spirit, the spirit of your alma mater,
it is that which should make you reach up as well as on,
which should make you aspire instead of grovel – look up, instead of down.”
From the Orison Swett Marden’s book, Pushing to the Front
Marden’s book was written in 1911. The similarities between 1911 and 2016 as described in his book are absolutely amazing! Granted, some of the numbers Marden used are no longer applicable but the premise on which the point was being developed are more valid in 2016 than they were or that Marden could have ever considered in his wildest imagination. I have become engrossed in the writings of Marden. You can obtain several of them free of charge by searching Orison Swett Marden (just click on his name and it will take you to Amazon.com or you can go to Amazon.com and enter Orison Swett Marden in the search box) Word of warning, please do not be dissuaded from reading Pushing to the Front due to its size; it is well worth the read and you will or should want all your children to read it.
In the quote above, two words really struck a nerve with me and I have emboldened them; “teachers” and “associations.” When Marden uses the word “association” at least in this context he is referring to people as compared to organizations because our friends (associations) can become teachers in our lives maybe even more so than the teachers we encounter in our schools. To this point, one need only look at the thousands upon thousands of youths in 2016 who have turned to crime. They did not learn such a life from the teachers within their schools; they either learned it within their environment at home or their “associations” on the streets of America.
A case could be made that I had good, as compared to excellent, teachers in my formal education that lasted 14 years with no setbacks. But here is the point that so seriously struck me when I read the above Marden quote. Of all the teachers I have had in twelve years of public school education and two years of collegiate education, I have had ONLY TWO teachers who now that I am 71 years of age, I can remember their names, ONLY TWO. One teacher was actually my High School Basketball Coach, George Simpson; the other, the band director Mr. Horvath. Why can I not remember any of the English, Math, Science, or Civics teachers et al? Why do I remember Mr. Simpson the basketball coach? Because of all the teachers, and a coach is a teacher, he was the ONLY ONE of TWO who let me be me but did so by insisting that I play by the rules of the game of basketball and his rules as coach. There was also the high school band leader Mr. Horvath who instilled the value of doing what you were expected to do and be an integral member of the band (team) yet still let the creative juices within come forth through music. Mr. Simpson helped to develop me as a player in spite of my smallish size (5’10”) on the basketball team and Mr. Horvath helped develop my music skills in the band. I was not alone, all of the players (basketball and band) looked up to and admired them as a coach and band director and for the discipline they both taught us especially regarding playing on teams.
What about all the other teachers in my life? Today I can recall none of their names, none! What does that say about all these people as teachers? Years later, I doubt any of them remember my name much like I don’t remember theirs. Keep in mind that as a student in High School in the early 60s, all the boys could be subject to the military draft if they failed to go on to college and this was a time when Vietnam was entrenched in war and death. With so many young men and women dying in the jungles of Vietnam it is quite possible they did not want to know our names out of a fear of future loss. Who knows? Maybe they just didn’t see any potential in me and therefore had no reason to learn my name and be concerned about my future as an adult. I did not think of these things back in the early 60s but I do now in 2016.
I have two daughters who teach school and over the years they both have demonstrated they remember most if not all of their students. Their students dramatically change in physical appearance, yet they remember them as students once they get over the physical changes that might prevent them from immediately recognizing them as former students.
From the above quote: “…is the uplift, encouragement, inspiration, which you have absorbed from your teachers,” as stated, I can remember only two out of all of my former formal school teachers/professors who I can honestly say, “uplifted me, encouraged me, or inspired me to bigger and greater things.” To set the record straight, I was not a problem student. For the most part I did as I was told and did it when I was told to do it. I was never a discipline problem. I recall it seemed like the students who received the most attention from the teachers/professors, at least in my classes, were at opposite ends of the spectrum. They were either the “smart ones” in the class or the “class/school problem” students. The students in the middle appeared to be just the average student and didn’t warrant any special consideration one way or the other.
Fast forward to the U. S. Coast Guard. Not only can I vividly remember my Boot Camp Drill Instructor, Chief McAdams (1965), I can remember every person for whom I worked. Whether they realized it or not, they became my most influential teachers concerning all things Coast Guard and personal discipline. I know not if they remember my name or not; I certainly remember theirs. These Coast Guard people were responsible for the success I enjoyed in my twenty year Coast Guard career and beyond. We were all part of a team. Each unit was a small team by some standards but also part a much larger team of over 35,000 Coast Guard personnel all working towards several minor missions but one overall mission of serving the United States of America proudly and responsibly. When one person became a problem, it seemed as if they adversely reflected upon all of the Coast Guard. When one excelled, we all excelled.
I did enjoy a lot of success within the Coast Guard. Now I wonder if the Coast Guard members whom I was responsible for thought of me as a teacher. A person they learned from and who they now attribute some of their success to as I do towards my Coast Guard superiors. I also wonder how many of the Coast Guard people I worked for considered me as an asset who they learned from and helped them to future success in the Coast Guard. I was taught from the first day I joined the Coast Guard that if I did my job and did it well, I was one less person for my superiors to worry about. When everyone worked with that attitude, the job for everyone became easier and done correctly!
I also spent over 33 years as a Real Estate Broker. I was fortunate to have worked for a couple of people who served as mentors in all things real estate and people management. Unfortunately I also worked for some who would take advantage of their own family member if it would further their agendas let alone someone who they employed. In a way, that too provided very valuable lessons learned of how not to act, how not to treat people and how not to treat customers. I vividly remember those names. Most of the personnel management training that applied to working with real estate agents, I actually learned in the Coast Guard. The real estate and motivational training I received I learned primarily by reading books and attending seminars. Books became my teachers; not so much people. In my years as a real estate broker, I have read well over 1000 books to help me better manage people and understand sales and real principles and estate law.
During my real estate career, I like to think I knew my place. I worked for a company owned by others. Therefore I was responsible to them as an employee. But I also held real estate licenses for upwards of 105 agents at any one time. As such I was personally responsible for their actions as licensed real estate agents. I felt that I worked for each and every one of those agents as well as my employers. I had an understanding with the owners of the company that my first priority was not the owners or even the customers who bought and sold real estate through our company. My first responsibility was to my agents. I was their teacher and mentor provided they permitted me to become such in their real estate careers; most but not all did. It was really simple, customers came first and they were represented by their real estate agent of choice. Real estate agents came first to me even before other employees of the company for whom I was also responsible for. Then came the employees and then the owners and everyone understood this and approved it. If an agent successfully did his or her job, then I was doing my job and since the agents did their job, and me my job, then the owners should be happy because it was a win-win all around. The important point is that my education and training came mostly from books and the many seminars I attended and these were all by my own choice and selection.
Someone once said, “Education” is what you get when you read the fine print; “experience” is what you get when you don’t. In all aspects of life you have to read an awful lot of “fine print” to get to the actual meat of the subjects you are interested in. The problem as I see it is that in most “formal educations” people are required to read, study and be tested on subjects they have no interest in but are required as part of their particular curriculum. A great many students thrive in that type of environment, but some like me do not. I wanted to learn what is important to what I wanted intend to do as an adult. That is why I thoroughly enjoyed both my Coast Guard career and my real estate career. Neither one was encumbered with training that did not apply to my careers. I have heard all the arguments concerning becoming a more “well rounded” adult by taking all the “required” courses to supposedly make that happen. But what happens when someone like me takes the courses and has absolutely no interest in the course or attempting to learn information that I know will never apply to me or my desired adult career(s)? Simply put, I did not fare well in those courses. Case in point, I was REQUIRED to take a course on the study of pre-historic fossils. My college majors were Marketing and Advertising. You tell me, where does a fossilized Trilobite fall within my major? It doesn’t and it never has yet I spent a lot of time studying material of which I had absolutely no interest.
I can easily identify and remember the people and names of persons most responsible for my Coast Guard and later my real estate careers. Yet I can’t remember the names of my primary and college teachers/professors. There are two possibilities for this to have happened. First, I was not ready for them when they appeared in my life and I think that had a lot to do with it. Secondly, they had a job they were performing not a calling. I know that a great many of my teachers/professors failed to have that calling and instead were more interested in just collecting a check than the development of their students. If they actually had a calling, I would remember having more one-on-one conversations with them about helping me to achieve my goals and frankly that did not happen. In the 50s and 60s we didn’t even have school career counselors to help us achieve our goals whatever those goals may have been.
I believe that students are either introverted or extroverted; there is no middle ground. Yes there are degrees of each but all students fall into one of the two categories. The extroverted students seem, at least to me, to do better in school than the introverted students. Until about the third grade I thought I was probably an extroverted student. I remember volunteering for projects and asking a lot of questions until one fatal day in the third grade. We were studying the planets. The teacher made the comment that there was no life on Mars because it was too hot and limited oxygen for humans to live. I raised my hand and stood up as required to ask my question. “What if the people who live on Mars are NOT like us? What if they like it really hot and they take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen like the plants on Earth we just learned about?” Those may not have been the exact words but they are close. Even today they make a lot of sense to me. Sadly for me, they made no sense whatsoever for my third grade teacher for she left me standing in my classroom and then pointed out to the rest of the class just how stupid my question was and by inference how dumb I was for even asking it. For the record I would ask the same question today. It was that day so many years ago and the actions of that one teacher who changed my life forever. That was the day I stopped volunteering and I stopped answering questions in class when teachers would ask the class a question and expected them to answer. It was the day I stopped asking questions in class because I did not want to be used as an example as to how dumb a teacher perceived me to be. She might as well have put a dunce cap on my head and set me in the corner for the rest of the class or for that matter the rest of my formal education.
It has been my experience that most teachers, at least the ones I had, expect you to “color within the lines.” They have an agenda, a curriculum that they must follow and do not like when someone wants to deviate from that agenda/curriculum. Thinking outside the box was a forbidden activity as I grew up. Instead of encouraging the creative students who routinely think outside the box, they pushed them down and even penalized them if they did try to color outside the lines. Another case in point happened in a college debate class. I was assigned the subject of Communism and I was to take the side of being in favor of it. I failed that particular assignment because the professor “didn’t agree with what I had said.” I was under the impression I was going to be graded on my presentation, not on the content. So not only was I REQUIRED discuss/sell something I did not believe in, I had to discuss it in terms of what the professor believed. How was I supposed to have known that?
What does all this have to do with you? Believe it or not, you are a teacher or mentor for others; it may not be obvious to you but you are. People watch you, they listen to you and therefore they make decisions one way or the other based on what they see and hear. Words mean things. If you call your son, daughter, student, or employee stupid, yes I have heard people do that, that one word will forever be embedded in their subconscious mind. If you call them ugly, disrespectful, deceitful, a liar, etc, you are planting words within that subconscious mind that they will never forget and will then come to the conscious mind when they least expect them to. People oftentimes make life decisions based on words and/or phrases residing within the subconscious mind and they have no idea why they make those decisions. If someone is afraid of success, it may have been something as simple as being told they will never amount to anything (if they don’t do what they were told by parents, teachers or associations). Or if you are told that you are a jerk, your subconscious mind will find a way to make that come to life within you and you really will become a jerk.
One of the best training classes I have ever attended was conducted by Dr. Morris Massey. He taught us that “you are what you are because of what you were when you were ten.” In short he was providing proof that most people develop consciously and more importantly subconsciously their values and principles all by the age of ten based upon what they are taught by parents, associations and teachers. By ten, he meant ten plus or minus two years meaning as low as eight or as high as twelve. At first you may not agree with that but if or when you see Dr. Massey’s presentation it makes all the sense in the world. If you grow up in a loving and caring family, chances are you will become a loving and caring adult. If you grow up in an environment of abuse, verbal and physical, and/or surrounded by crime, chances are you will become that in your adult life. As a ten year old, parents, teachers and associations are the people who you come to trust, rightfully or wrongfully, but trust them you do. Then as you enter your teen years, you attempt to validate what you have been taught and that is when you experiment with those teachings. Then you discover that some of what you had been taught is not necessarily true. A perfect example of this is racism. Children are not born racists; that is a trait they learn from their parents or even some of their teachers and definitely their associations and it starts at the earliest of ages. And less we forget racism works both ways; whites hating blacks, and blacks hating whites. Most of that type of racism is taught within the home and you learn it well all before you are ten years old.
Whether you are talking to one of your children, someone else’s child, a spouse, an employee or a fellow associate, WORDS MATTER and they MATTER GREATLY. Choose your words WISELY! Show people that you truly care about them and their futures. If you become upset or agitated, take a deep breath and respond rather than immediately reacting and then saying something that could prove to be devastating to the self-esteem of the other person. WORDS MATTER and showing that YOU CARE, MATTERS EVEN MORE!