“If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.” Kahlil Gibran
All of us are sometimes in the role of a teacher or leader. We also are in the role of student or learner at different times. Usually the better the student a person is, the better teacher and leader he or she can become. As teachers, we frequently will emphasize those lessons we want or need to know. Many times as teachers we will learn more than our students.
When we are in the role of teacher, we have an opportunity to give something back to others. We have the opportunity to pass on the lessons which were taught to us by our teachers. It is an opportunity to positively or negatively influence others. A teacher’s influence can be powerful and long lasting. Henry Adams believed that,”A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” This is why we have a responsibility to be good examples of what we are teaching and to respect the worth and dignity of our students. The way we perceive our students or employees, and the expectations we have for them, often has a greater effect than the lessons we are teaching. Our vision of their potential can have a transformational effect on the students as this mental picture is transferred to their minds. Do we see them as worthwhile human beings with the potential to learn and succeed? If so, their chances of success are greater.
Studies have been conducted in the schools that demonstrate that a teacher’s expectations influence his or her pupil’s performance. There are examples in which teachers were told that one group of students were the smart ones and another group were the dumb ones, when both groups were actually of similar intelligence. The students performed according to the preconceptions and expectations of their teachers. The students who were considered the smart ones performed significantly better than the group who had been labeled as unintelligent. The teachers had verbally and nonverbally communicated their expectations to the students who performed accordingly. Students will usually rise to the level of the teacher’s expectations. All that I am saying about the teacher student relationship is meant to include the supervisor employee relationship.
When we are in the role of a leader teacher, whether as a parent, minister, employer, mentor, or friend, who we are is even more important than what we say. We always radiate who we are, and the more we develop ourselves, the greater will be our influence. This is why continuous personal, professional, and spiritual growth is so important. Our level of inner development determines the impact we have on others. We must live what we are teaching in order to speak with the deep conviction which will influence others. There needs to be congruency between who we are and what we say and do. If I am a supervisor who is consistently late for work and I emphasize to my employees the importance of being on time, what effect can I expect from my words? My exhortations would lack power.
In our role as students and employees, we can strive for quality education or training, and be receptive to the lessons being provided by our teachers and leaders. In our role as teachers and leaders, we can nurture the seeds of greatness within our students and employees, and bring out the best that is in them. Helping the learner to unfold his or her potential is education and leadership in the truest sense and teaching at its best.
Copyright 2007 Raymond Gerson.