Just the other night I got to enjoy one of my favorite things in the world–having dinner with college students. This special dinner happened to be in Athens, at the University of Georgia. It was a most enjoyable time but, as always, I left with more than I came with. These young people always teach me something or validate something I have been studying.
For the last several weeks I have been re-reading some of the books I have read over the years on attitude, kindness, ethics, in general, what I call “value” books. Books I need to read often and, more importantly, implement the information found in them. At this particular dinner I am not sure how the topic came up, but three out of the four kids shared stories about a professor they had all encountered in their classes. One of the kids had even signed up for and taken another class with this particular professor.
I would give anything to have been able to tape the conversation. The positive things these kids articulated about this professor, Debbie Phillips, were simply heart warming and so encouraging. They talked about how energized she was at all times, how much she smiled, how helpful she was, how well she taught the material and how much she radiated her love for all students.
They continued to talk about her as if she were a famous celebrity. They conveyed at least 6 to 7 stories about their experiences with her. They even quoted her. They used her “personal sayings” and, most of all, indicated the major impact she had had on them. They had such enthusiasm for this teacher. The reality that became crystal clear at dinner was the profound positive influence she had had on these young people. It created a desire within me to not only meet her but to do the very best job I could to communicate to her the motivating effect she has had, not only on Collins, but the other students as well. Also, I want to learn from her!!! I want to know her myself so I asked her to meet for lunch next semester. I have a keen interest in what shaped her as a professor in college that resulted in 5 STAR reviews, totally unsolicited, by three of her students!
I had one such professor at Clemson, an accounting professor named Vince Guide. I will never forget his love for students, his desire to see everyone succeed, his positive feedback, his enthusiasm for his job and, most of all, the love he conveyed to all his students. He was funny, made coming to class a joy and sought the greater good of everyone.
Vince Guide and Debbie Phillips have many gifts in common. The one story the kids told at dinner that really resonated with me was the story of how Ms. Phillips would use positive discipline to call someone out for not doing their work or for being late to class. They laughed and smiled as they reflected on her well-developed skill of keeping kids accountable and on time for class. She knew everyone’s name. Ms. Phillips would see a kid come in late and call them by name. She would compliment them on how they looked and interact with them until they sat down. Needless to say only a few people were ever late to class. She was very positive in her approach, not negative. But all the students got the message, if you walked in late, you would be called out, but in a kind and funny way that was a “real positive” for everyone.
Amazingly, Vince Guide did the same thing when I was a student at Clemson. No one wanted to miss his class because it was so much fun and he was such a good, positive teacher. Dr. Guide had crafted positive, kind, motivational energy in his class and it was Magnetizing. It was a race to see if you would be the first to sign up for his class. He was the most “popular” accounting professor at Clemson and everyone knew it.
Without ever stepping into their classroom, these teachers can teach me/you/us some important “values”:
- You build a reputation with those you interact with every day. People will walk away either being lifted up by having spent time with you or not.
- Recognize that we all have the ability to have a positive affect on those we interact with on a daily basis. Do we leave people for the Better or for the Worse? Job 4:4, “Your words have supported those who stumble, you have strengthened faltering knees.”
- You cannot have a bad attitude and encourage others at the same time.
- Your reputation with others exceeds the time you spend with them.
- How you treat people says everything about you.
- Even in a circumstance of having to confront, you can find a positive way to “call out” the person. Proverbs 16:24, “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
- We all have the ability to make others smile and be remembered for good. It is our personal choice. Proverbs 15:13, “A happy heart makes the face cheerful….”
May we all be more aware of how we treat others. We may not get 5 STAR reviews from those we encounter but I Corinthians 13:1-3 reminds us that all we do should be done out of love for our Savior and for others. “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
“A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.” ~Charles Spurgeon