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The Professor and Interpersonal Relationships

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Last week, I had the privilege of sitting in a class room at Appalachian State University. It was Friday morning, 9:00AM and the room had just finished a test. The lecture hall was full with 55 students present. The professor, Jan Woods, was teaching accounting and as I said, the room was full! On a Friday! Many lecture halls we either empty or woefully under attended. What the hell was going on. These kids were supposed to be ready for the weekend and a Football game. And yet they were all here and engaged in the conversation.

Now, let’s cover all of the details; Jan Woods has been voted “Most Likable Professor” on several occasions, she has a score of 4.4 on Rate My Professor.com and the real key is that she loves what she does. She has been teaching at the University for more than ten years and it DOESN’T show. Jan acts as if each day is her first. As I watched, the students never got off track, they listened intently and asked pointed questions. Every interaction was met with equal enthusiasm. No question was out of line or considered irrelevant. These kids were there because they wanted to be there, not because of any parental obligation.

The time went by at a blinding pace and before I knew it, the class was over. I was disappointed to see it end. And apparently, so were several of the students. When class was dismissed, there was no mad rush to the doors. Every other class I had ever attended finished with students closing their books, gathering materials five minutes prior to the end of the session, and assuming a runners stance in order to sprint out the door. Nothing of the sort on this day. The students causally collected their things only after being dismissed. They milled around, chatted and several remained after to discuss issues with the latest assignments. They’re in college, so I know they realize it’s Friday. RUN!!! Be free! It’s the weekend…

And Jan stayed to speak with each one who needed her advice. She shared her schedule and gave them additional times to see her if needed. Without hurry, she shared herself with every student and only when they were gone, did we leave also. It was a stark difference from what I had been used to in my collegiate days.

The REAL Difference…

As fascinating as it was to watch and be part of the interactions between Jan and her students, there was nothing secret about what the real difference was. You see, Jan loves her students and they love her. She makes it personal to teach them and accepts the responsibility as both a privilege and an honor. What happens after that is the magic. Accounting and Introduction to Business have the potential to be the most boring classes of a students career. The information is dry and very little changes from one year to the next. And yet you could never tell while in her class room. The magic is really in the relationship.

The dawning realization washed over me, that this is what everyone should strive to achieve. We are all teachers in our own worlds. We teach and learn from each other on a daily basis. It can be our work relationships, our friends and families and of course, our own children. However, accepting the responsibility as both a privilege and an honor is the challenge. It is only through the love of the experience that we can preform to the Level Professor Woods has achieved.

Consider that every interaction sends a message out into the world. When we deal with associates at our work place, they in turn, go home and the impact is either shared or indirectly transferred to their families. They take this new experience and pass it along as well. We see this more clearly in teaching as with Mrs. Woods. The students accept the lessons from her, but more importantly, they accept them willingly through the spirit of her teaching. They help each other with assignments and are eager to share. Her impact goes far into the world in that she is preparing these students for a life journey. And so are we with our families and especially our children.

Making a Difference…

Knowing the power of relationships, it gives me pause to look at what’s going on in my world and see what impacts I am making on those within my circle of influence. I challenge you to do the same. We can not hide from the fact that we touch others everyday and in ways we may not see or understand. Ask yourself; what message and I sending my children? Am I being the person I want others to see as? Are my actions in accordance with my expectations? Am I who I want to be?

Think about the message into the world as you teach a child to read, to play a musical instrument, to play with others or to love. Your message will carry on for years to come. That same child will absorb and translate what he has learned, so consider making it something you wish to have returned to you. Your message will live on in the heart and minds of those you touch and there is no exception.

The ongoing theme of our writings here at RLA Advisors is communication. Talk, discuss, communicate do what it takes to make better relationships and enjoy each other. At the same time, we understand that changing the world means changing ourselves. We have no power to force a change upon another human being, but if we choose to behave differently, then we will receive something in return. Don’t like what you see in others? Look within and make a change. If that doesn’t do it, don’t be afraid to repeat the process.

Last weeks article was about the power of choice and here again, that choice resides solely within us as individuals. Choose to be that person who makes a difference. I know Jan does and I can’t thank her enough for her efforts.

Now go make a difference in the lives of people you love. Let me know your success stories. What you do touches and moves the universe. Be kind and see what you get in return…

Love with no shame and ask with no fear

Bobby

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