Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8
Many years ago I was an instructor at a small, private college. I taught classes on Shakespeare, Interpersonal Communications and Oral Communications (writing and delivering speeches). It was in the Interpersonal Communications class that I experienced the best success of my teaching career. The irony was that I didn’t have a clue until the term was over.
One student was a pretty, thirty-something blond. A wife and mother, she had decided to try going back to school. She was bright, contributed in class, and wrote some very good papers.
One requirement of the class was to write a reaction paper on every reading assignment in the text. She was one of the better writers on this exercise. She got mostly A’s and a smattering of B’s. One day after class she stayed behind and asked me about her grades. Her concern was that I was just being nice and giving away A’s. I assured her that she was earning everything she got and that I enjoyed her papers.
She seemed to accept that, and I thought no more about it.
A brunette walked into my office shortly after the term was over and grades were out. I didn’t recognize her at first. The blond was gone, but the smile looked familiar. I complemented her on her new look. Imagine my surprise when she credited me with the change. That’s when, as Paul Harvey would say, I learned…The Rest of the Story.
A teacher in her grade school had, for some inexplicable and inexcusable reason, felt it necessary to tell that she wasn’t very smart. She drilled it in a bit further, telling her that she’d probably never amount to anything.
The child she was took those murderous words to heart. There was pain, despair, and
finally acceptance. As soon as she was old enough, she died her hair blond. Most her life had been spent being the dumb blond, safe from expectations and disappointments. With a cute face, cute figure, and dumb smile, an essentially nice person lived the lie of stupidity for most of her life. Her grades followed her new-found identity, and she settled into a life of mediocrity.
Then came my class. At first she thought I was just being nice to the dumb blonde. Pitying, she thought. Then she started to believe. She started to believe just enough that she had to ask, expecting her grade school teacher to rear her ugly head, yet hoping someone else would show up.
After hearing my affirmation of her work, she dared to believe that that grammar school gorgon was wrong. She decided to leave her dumb blond persona behind, and dyed her hair back to her natural color. She started to become the person she should have been for all of those years.
So, concluded the brunette sitting opposite me, she was planning to keep moving ahead with her delayed education. She wanted to say thank you and let me know what a difference I had made in her life and her family’s.
All of that from me just being honest, engaged, and…nice to someone.
Who would’ve thought?