My dad once told me a story about how he decided to become a doctor. It was because of his 10th grade science teacher. Here he was, the 9th of 10 children, going through school with no particular distinction. Years earlier, his mom had lied about his age and had gotten him into first grade when he was only five— evidently to get him out from under her feet at home. Now he was in the 10th grade, younger and smaller than everyone else. One day, his science teacher took him aside and said, “You know, you really have a natural ability in science. Did you ever think about becoming a doctor? I think you’d be a good one.”
Until that time, he had never thought about his future at all. The way things were going at home, he would have been relegated to being the delivery boy for his family’s grocery store, working for his five older brothers, some of whom were 20 years his senior. He already had to make deliveries on the weekends and during the summer for them and the idea of doing this full time depressed him.
From that short encouraging conversation, my dad became very motivated to succeed in school. He studied hard, got into the University of Virginia and never came home again. He got into medical school a year early by going to summer school each year instead of returning home to work in the store. This displeased his brothers because they wanted him to drive the delivery truck but he didn’t care. He knew what he wanted to achieve and he had the confidence to go for it. He still credits this teacher for showing him what was possible.
I’m not sure why this is so but it is often easier to see more in people than they see in themselves. We can be more compassionate, more forgiving, more accepting of another person’s shortcomings than we can of our own. It’s for this reason that I have such respect for certain teachers in my life. It is almost like there is gold inside of a person that doesn’t become gold until it is recognized as such. That’s what good teachers do. They can introduce you to your highest self.
From a lifetime of criticism by the adults and peers in our lives, it is only natural that we come to doubt our own abilities. One of the greatest gifts you can give another person, especially someone who looks up to you is to say, “You can do this. You have talent. You have a gift. I see something great in you.” By holding the vision of what is possible out to them we give them an opportunity to manifest what we saw in them. It doesn’t happen instantly, but our belief in them may give them the courage and the confidence to work towards achieving that vision.
Do you remember a teacher who took a particular interest in your development and success, who saw something in you and made a difference in your life? I’d love to hear about how this person affected you. They’d probably like to hear from you as well.
I welcome your comments on this or any other blog post.