From As Iron Sharpens Iron
By the fifth grade, I was bearing all the fruit of a kid who feels insecure, unloved, and pretty angry at life. In other words, I was tearing the place apart. However, my teacher Miss Simon apparently thought that I was blind to this problem, because she regularly reminded me, “Howard, you are the worst behaved child in this school!”
So tell me something I don’t already know! I thought to myself, as I proceeded to live up (or down) to her opinion of me…
Needless to say, the fifth grade was probably the worst year of my life. Finally I was graduated – for obvious reasons. But I left with Miss Simon’s words ringing in my ears: “Howard, you are the worst behaved child in this school!”
You can imagine what my expectations were upon entering the sixth grade. The first day of class, my teacher, Miss Noe, went down the roll call, and it wasn’t long before she came to my name. “Howard Hendricks,” she called out, glancing from her list to where I was sitting with my arms folded, just waiting to go into action. She looked me over for a moment and then said, “I’ve heard a lot about you.” Then she smiled and added, “But I don’t believe a word of it!”
I tell you, that moment was a fundamental turning point, not only in my education, but in my life. Suddenly, unexpectedly, someone believed in me. For the first time in my life, someone saw potential in me. Miss Noe put me on special assignments. She gave me little jobs to do. She invited me to come in after school to work on my reading and arithmetic. She challenged me with higher standards.
I had a hard time letting her down. In fact, one time I got so involved in one of her homework assignments I stayed up until 1:30 in the morning working on it! Eventually my father came down the hall and said, “What’s the matter son? Are you sick?”
“No, I’m doing homework,” I replied.
He kind of blinked and rubbed his eyes, not quite sure whether he was awake. He’d never heard me say anything like that before…
What made the difference between fifth grade and sixth? The fact that someone was willing to give me a chance. Someone was willing to believe in me while challenging me with higher expectations. That was risky, because there was no guarantee that I would honor Miss Noe’s trust.
Everyone likes the end product of mentoring, especially when it yields a peak performer – the star athlete, the successful businessperson, the brilliant lawyer, the impressive communicator. But how many of us want to deal with the person at the front end of the process?
(How many of us have met this teacher? I know, I for one have and he changed the way I looked at school. My grades went from failing to passing. All because someone believed in me.)
(Is there someone out there that needs you to believe in them today? I’m sure there is and if you’ll take the time to tell them so you might just change their lives forever. I know because it happened to me.)