YOU … THE TEACHER

The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you,
who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau,
sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called “truth
.”
-Dan Rather, American Journalist

The term “teacher” appeared somewhere around the 14th Century and according to the dictionary means; one whose occupation is to instruct others – a tutor. I think the word also implies that one must undergo special training and possess specific credentials to be a teacher. I’m not so sure I agree with that.
In fact, I believe that in our own way we are all teachers – sometimes having a positive influence, sometimes negative, and often, we don’t even know the impact we are having on others.
My grandpa James was one of the most important male figures in my life. His education came to a halt after the eighth grade when his services were needed to help run the farm. By shear determination he put two daughters through nursing school. Later in life he became a train engineer. I remember clearly watching him as he “drove” a massively huge steam engine. He was always inventing some mechanical wonder. He taught me how to fish and hunt. He inspired me, as he did my mother to work hard, get educated and always do the right thing. He also taught me how to drive a stick shift automobile.
It wasn’t that he just “taught” me how to drive a stick shift; he taught me with love and extreme patience. He pushed just hard enough, never got upset when I ground the gears, and trusted me absolutely. I can still remember looking at him for his approval as I made the smooth transition from second to third gear. He appeared to be relaxed, at ease and unconcerned. I now know he was anything but those things. I also know what a superb teacher he was. I know, because I recently taught my grandson to drive a stick shift.
My step-daughter is a wonderful human being but when it came to teaching my grandson David how to drive a stick shift – it didn’t’ work so well. In fact, after just a few minutes my grandson jumped out at a stoplight and refused to try again. That’s where I came in. Hearing the story from my wife, I volunteered to teach him. It was only later that I questioned my sanity. He said he looked forward to it and that he hoped that I had a lot of patience.
Since my grandfather taught me to drive in an empty parking lot, I decided to adapt the same strategy. On my way over to pick David up, I realized I didn’t have the slightest idea how I was going to approach this mission, but I really didn’t have to worry about it. From 50 years ago I heard my grandfather’s words in my head: “Don’t worry about it Jimmy. All you have to do is learn first gear and the rest will come naturally.”
David was extremely nervous and impatient with himself, probably waiting to see if I’d yell at him. I didn’t. When he made a mistake, I told him I did the same thing when my grandfather was teaching me and that you can’t learn to drive without grinding a few gears. There were a couple more suggestions from me, a few more mistakes from him, some encouraging words, “Don’t worry about it, it just takes practice.” And then, quite suddenly, he slipped into first gear without effort. Then second gear. We wheeled around the parking lot for almost an hour.
Then I lead him to tackle shifting into reverse. Fifteen minutes after he accomplished that feat, I suggested he consider crossing over the main road at a light and practice in another parking lot. “NO, I CAN’T DO THAT!!.” “OK” I replied. “But you may want to think about it.” Then…silence…gears shifting and another ten minutes passed. “OK, grandpa. I think I’m ready to try that.” My eyes swept back and forth to be sure we wouldn’t get clobbered by some out-of-control driver taking on his cell phone. Across the street we went. More encouragement and praise from me, a huge smile appearing on his face, more praise, more practice, another “stretching” suggestion from me. Finally I employed all my powers of persuasion and lovingly swayed him to venture out in to the traffic and make a right turn. Suddenly, we are facing a stop sign where he stopped and loudly proclaimed, “You tricked me grandpa. I said I didn’t want to drive out on the road.” “I didn’t trick you.” I responded. “I just gave you the choice that you would have made anyhow if you didn’t have any fear.”
Less then two hours after our lesson began, he pulled in our driveway where he proudly received congratulations from his grandma. A sense of pride and love blossomed in my chest. My grandpa would have been very proud of my teaching ability.
Years ago, I heard a fellow speaker end his talk to a business sales group by saying, “Remember, your children are watching.” Indeed they are – at every moment. The Lebanese poet and novelist, Khalil Gibran, said it best when he wrote, “The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.”
Recognizing that someone is always watching you and that by your actions you are always teaching will support you to live an exceptional life.
I leave you with a few select portions of a poem entitled, “When you thought I wasn’t looking.”

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator,
and I wanted to paint another one.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I felt you kiss me goodnight,
and I felt loved.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw tears come from your eyes,
and I learned that sometimes things hurt,
but it’s alright to cry.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw that you cared,
and I wanted to be everything that I could be.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I looked….
and I wanted to say thanks for all the things
I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking.

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