Sunday, April 3, 2011

Honor Your Teachers

I am, at heart, a teacher. Mostly a "do as I say, not as I do" sort of teacher, but still. I love teaching. And I hold a great appreciation for those who do it for a living. I'd like to tip my hat to the educators out there who make a difference. Every. Single. Day.

I've always loved to learn. I would be a perpetual college student for the experience alone, if life and family didn't prevent me. Thankfully, I have the opportunity to learn from someone outside of a classroom. Every. Single. Day.

We meet regular people throughout our lives who teach us. Some of us are able to see these people for who they are--a gift. Teachers come in many shapes and sizes. From many backgrounds and in many disguises. If you pay attention, you'll recognize them. Here are a few of my favorites:

1) Start with those closest to you. Your family and friends. Maybe your parents taught you everything. Maybe your best friend is brilliant. Even your children are master teachers. Mine go out of their way to teach me patience, boy band songs, how to build with Legos and why limiting sugar is always a great idea. Your loved ones hold valuable information. Take the time to listen.

2) Pay attention to those who irritate the hell out of you. They are teachers in disguise. When negative emotions run high, it's difficult to recognize a teacher when your mind assigns them another name. Some days it seems that everyone you meet is determined to make your day worse. Ask yourself why? Maybe they're your reminder to take a breath and a big step back. Maybe your attitude is the problem. Maybe you need to avoid the place you see them. There are multiple possibilities. Only you know the lesson, but you have to be willing to recognize them as teacher. They're offering you a valuable experience.

3) Be around those who inspire you to be more than you currently are. I try to spend as much time as I can with those who make me smile, those who challenge me to think bigger, those who push me beyond what I think I'm capable of. Again, these people can be those closest to you. They can be people you are frustrated by. Or a mentor, religious figure, supervisor--anyone you pick up tips and ideas from. These people help you move out of your comfort zone, and that's where amazing things happen.

4) People you've never met. Sounds odd, doesn't it? For me, some of the most important people in my learning process are people I've never met. Authors. So many I couldn't name them all. I have a serious book addiction, and these authors, who so generously shared their time and words, have made a monumental impact on my life. For you it might be someone on TV. Or someone who created an organization you believe in. All are teachers.

5) Everyday people you encounter throughout your daily activities. The clerk at the store, the person at the gas station, or the lady walking her dog past your house. Each of these people are potential teachers, if you choose to interact with them. Now, you might only hear about their hernia or the latest soap opera drama. But you might also hear about a new opportunity. A better way of doing something. An emotional life lesson. As long as you're open to the potential knowledge, anyone can be a teacher.

Once you've identified your teachers, then what? Acknowledge them. Honor them. Appreciate the gift they've given you, however large or small. This can be done in your mind, out loud, an email or note. "Thank you" is a magical phrase. A genuine word of thanks is one of the best gifts to give or receive. I recently sent a word of thanks to an author who made a big impression on me months ago. She said my message made her day. What I don't think she realized is how pivotal her gift was for me. Thank you seemed inadequate, but it's not.

Honor your teachers. If you're able, let them know they made a difference. One exception: if you're thinking of someone who infuriates you, a few choices words aren't going to make the same impression as "thank you." ;)

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