April 22, 2009

A lesson that high school can teach bosses

I had a teacher in high school called Mrs Usher. She was really cool – I had a lot of respect for her, I think everyone (even the bratty students in my class) did. Here is why. She treated us like humans first and students second. She gave us respect, so we gave it back – when she spoke we were all ears. My ‘turning point’ with Mrs Usher (when I saw how fab she was) was when she gave us a huge break between classes (always welcome!). She taught our third form class two sessions in a row – English in one classroom then music in another across the way straight after. One day she arrived quite a few minutes after the music lesson was supposed to start. She fluffed with her books for a while at the front and wrote some stuff on the board while we continued (probably very meaningful) teenage conversations. Eventually she started the class and said “now I know Tuesday morning is a funny morning because we see each other two classes in a row. I don’t want you to get sick of me and I don’t want to get sick of you – so that’s why I’m a bit late, I thought we could take a few minutes break before we start music”. I remember being really impressed with her. Some teachers are so by the book – boring and rigid. Any other teacher would have probably stormed into the room told us off for being so loud and set straight to work. I loved the fact that Mrs Usher recognised that it was a good idea for us to have a break from her and her to have a break from us. It was cool to see a teacher who knew it was quality not quantity that was important in the lesson – so she wasn’t afraid to lose a few minutes. Every week on Tuesday morning we enjoyed a few extra minutes of chatter, getting a drink, loo visits and probably very important reapplying of lip-gloss. When she started the lesson we were totally focused and ready to go. We all hated it when she got sick and had a few months off – relief teachers were always on time… and normally boring and rigid! We sincerely missed her, cared about her and were thrilled when she came back.

It’s the same with bosses – it’s amazing how something so minor as seeing the need for something (like a few extra minutes) can change everything – focus, commitment and respect. Treating people as people – recognising their human needs first, rather than seeing them just as employees can be the most powerful thing you do for your workplace. We knew Mrs Usher respected us and our needs – that to us was priceless. She also showed her human side by stating she didn't want to get sick of us either! That honesty was awesome - many teachers wouldn't be so open. I’m not sure if she realised how much of a big favour she did herself that day – such a simple way to gain instant respect!

In what areas are you being a boring and rigid teacher instead of a cool one like Mrs Usher?

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