If you are anything like me, you may have left your house to go to work thinking, “Did I turn off the stove?”
If you are anything like me, you may have left your house to go to work thinking, “What am I going to do first?”
If you are anything like me, you may have left your house to go to work on automatic mode, and everything works its way into a routine (Until you get to work where you wonder, “Was my hand break up the whole time?”).
But rarely, if you are anything like me, do I think about how can I change somebody’s day today?
And you know what, that’s okay. When I come to think about it, the times when something changes for the positive on my account, it wasn’t on purpose!
It was more like a reaction…
“Ms. Nierras, I still don’t understand how to figure out the fingering for the trumpet.”
“I can help you with that.”
“Ms. Nierras, I love the Beatles!”
“I was thinking about you, so here’s the sheet music for ‘Yesterday’”.
“Ms. Nierras, there’s no way I can remember all the Presidents of the United States!”
“Give it some time, I believe in you.”
That would be a typical day of teaching for me, but within a year, change happens: My trumpet student would have played two concerts, my Ukulele student played Yesterday, Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, and I Want to Hold Your Hand, and my U.S. History student can state how the Presidents contributed during their term years!
The three things that I said: I can help you, I was thinking of you, and I believe in you, were things I needed to say and do at that moment. I did not say them consciously thinking it will change their lives! I merely said and did them, because that was what I was called to do.
I will turn the table around now to illustrate how it was when the three things were said to me:
I CAN HELP YOU. My friend and I booked tickets months in advance to go to the U.S. Mainland for a state-hopping trip during the summer. Everything was set and I even got confirmation for our seats. On the night of our departure, we were told that we needed to rebook our flight. The booking caused us to fly a foreign airline consecutively after coming from a U.S. Territory, and that was against FAA regulations. We asked the agent if there was anything we can do to be able to leave that night. His answer was no. They called their supervisor in, his answer was no. I called a bunch of 800 numbers for the airlines that booked us, and all I received were machines, except one. Meet our hero Dave. He was the one person that said, “I can help you.” He managed to keep our first flight out and rebooked us on the spot that got us to our destination a day earlier.
Dave might have just been doing his job, but he changed our fate that night. And for that, I thank him. I also resolved that if there were one thing that I would like to teach my students, it would be for them to become problem-solvers like Dave.
I WAS THINKING OF YOU. This idea came from reading Igniting A Passion for Reading by Dr. Steven Layne. In fact, I will quote it:
“Of course, Danny was interested in something: motorcycles. And when I showed up with magazines about motorcycles, nonfiction books about motorcycles, and The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary, I was extending an olive branch to a boy who’d spent an entire year of school thinking there was nothing he would like to read. ‘Daniel, sir’, I said in my best official voice, ‘when I saw all these motorcycle books and magazines, I thought of you. Would you like to look at them?’ With wide-eyed wonder, Danny took the whole stack, found himself a cozy spot, and went to work. Danny checked out two books from the library and ‘borrowed’ my magazines for many weeks; moreover, a relationship was cemented between us that day. When I said, ‘I thought of you’ and handed him those books and magazines, there was no denying that I had indeed spent time just on him. He knew it, and it was a tremendously important first step. One that we both needed to take.”
(Note to Dr. Layne: If I read this out verbally, that would be my chance to do a read-aloud!)
I bet many of us had someone thinking about us and it led to making our lives better. Personally, mine came from one of my university professors. I apparently had an unknown audition for membership to an exclusive orchestra, because the coordinator was invited to one of the concerts that I was playing at. My performance in that concert proved worthy and I was accepted! A short while later, I received news that the Rotary Club decided to sponsor me, and all the fees for my trip and membership were paid for! Who invited the orchestra coordinator? Who proposed the Rotary Club to sponsor me? That would be my university professor. Because of his thoughtfulness, I got accepted in a program that included 3 weeks of extensive musical training and 5 weeks of touring Southeast Asia with a 110-piece orchestra that included auditioned members from all over the region!
To this day, I can honestly say that the time my professor invested in initiating my membership to that group cemented a relationship between us, and I continually credit my professor for developing my passion and interest for music.
I BELIEVE IN YOU. I love these four words. It shows me that even though I can come to a point of giving up, there is one that has not given up on me yet.
I remember being a substitute teacher being called in to sub for an Art Class. The lesson plan looked fun to do until I realized that it was written four days ago! The teacher extended her absence and other subs have used up the same lesson plan and all materials for the class craft, leaving me with nothing to use. I panicked and I was too anxious to improvise! The class came in aware of my nervous state, took advantage of my unpreparedness, and soon the students became difficult to handle! I literally broke down and just cried.
I talked to the principal of the school that day, and I vividly remember her saying, “I know things were rough for you today, but I think there is no other profession you would rather do other than teaching. Keep at it, I believe in you.” I don’t know if that was her strategic speech to subs that had a rough day, because schools that time were in desperate need for substitute teachers. But regardless of that, what she said did the trick. Thirteen years later, I am still teaching and loving it.
When these three things were said to me, they had a profound effect. In order for me to make it a habit to say these three things to others, I need to often reflect and remember that they were said to me first.
If you are anything like me, you need someone to say, “I can help you”, at times of distress.
If you are anything like me, you need someone to say, “I was thinking of you”, to feel special.
If you are anything like me, you need someone to say, “I believe in you”, at times you feel like giving up.
Turn the table around and reflect.