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Return to Sender

A_plus_paperAbout five years ago, I had a spectacular group of students in my graduate organizational management class.  It was a relatively large class for an MBA course (45 students), but this particular group meshed very well, and it never really seemed like teaching.  I would go in, throw out a few "thought grenades" and these students carried the discussion.  Three hours every week for 15 weeks.  It was amazing and energizing.  I've only had one other section of students who collectively fell in that UBER-WOW category since.  It's a rare phenomenon when a class fires on ALL cylinders ALL the time, and a professor knows when it happens.

Anyway, back to five years ago, I had just given the mid-term exam, which was primarily essay.  The grades were really good, and I provided each student with the appropriate feedback.  After class, I had one student linger after longer than she usually did.  When most of the students had cleared out, she came up to me holding her exam, and she had tears in her eyes.  I thought this was strange, because out of a class of 45, I remembered her exam specifically.  Her writing was BEAUTIFUL, and I've had few students who have rivaled her expressiveness and descriptions.  As a matter of fact, I commented that she should consider writing professionally on her exam.

Being the concerned professor, I asked her if anything was wrong or if she had a question.  She choked back the tears as she explained what my comments had meant to her.  She told me that her own husband always criticized her writing and was constantly telling her how bad it was.  The problem was that she believed him.  She heard his negative input too many times, and she had started to accept it as reality.  And one honest comment from a well-meaning professor had completely changed her mindset.  I lost track of that student over the years (darn it).  I'd love to find out what happened to her and her career.  For me, it was just genuine exam feedback.  For her, it was the world.  I look back over my teaching career and there are more blurs now than I care to admit.  But there are moments that shine brighter than any star.  This was one of them.

What about the people around you?  What messages have they been receiving from bad bosses, mean-spirited co-workers, and harsh customers?  And what message are they waiting to hear from you which could erase all of the negative messages?  Sometimes our greatest accomplishment of the moment can be the simple "atta boy" or "good job" we give to others.

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Comments

Julie Hagg

About 4 years ago, I had a long week, traveling from LA, to Houston, and ending in Dallas. It was the last retirement meeting of the day and all I wanted to do was get to the airport, get on an earlier flight, and get home. A woman approached me after the meeting and asked to speak to me privately and began to cry. She told me she recently got divorced and her husband told her she would never be able to make it on her own and manage her finances. She told me that my presentation made her confident that she can make it and can manage her money. I will never forget her.

Tim - remember that story I told you two weeks ago about the note I received at work? After your post, I need to meet up with her and tell her how much that note meant to me at that specific time in my life!

This post made me smile. :)

Ms. Admin

Tim, This post catches the very essence of what each of us should be doing--touching lives in sincere, honest, caring words. I really do mess up occasionally, but I try to remember I may be "entertaining angels unaware." My life's journey has taught me that words can never be taken back; people are always watching and listening. As my Granny often told me, "A lady should never leave her home without wearing her smile." Wearing that smile makes words gentler, more encouraging, engaging and sincere. Thanks for reminding me of the power of words.

Timothy Johnson

Glad this post could make you pause and think about how we touch each other's lives.

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