A few years back I sat down and shared a cup of coffee with my then-dean and now department colleague Tom Connery. We are friends and thus we often chat about life. About our kids. About students. And about publishing and theories or cooking and celery. The conversation that day turned to teaching, of course. We teachers can't help ourselves but to muse about how to be better, brighter and grade more essays in shorter periods of time. Something my friend/former dean/colleague Tom said that day has stuck with me. I actually wrote it on a sticky note and secured it right next to my office computer on a file-folder-organizer-thingy. It has remained there for a good 4+ years now. In three memorable phrases he smartly summarized what distinguishes the creme de la creme teachers from all the rest.
The best of the best professors ...
1. are passionate.
2. are clear.
3. want their students to succeed.
It dawned on me yesterday as the sticky note caught my gaze once again: Maybe these are the same "secrets" of humans who enjoy great personal relationships? Of the creme de la crème married couples? Of the people who seem to really find deep gladness and awesome giddiness in their friendships? Of those darn happy couples most of us yearn to become.
1. Passion. (Gosh darn it, let's be happy! Let's do things to keep us connected. Strong. Repaired. Honest. In “like” with one another, even when the economy plummets, the children are melting, and the laundry is piling up).
2. Clarity. (Of vision. Of purpose. We do whatever it takes to remember, time and again, that friendship matters. That "we" can come first. And that "we" can stay happy. And that "we" must keep our priorities straight. Before jobs and kids and cars and mortgages. Relationships and kindness matter, yes they do!).
3. Holding up the other. (Does your partner, friend or sibling - the other parts of your team - really know, deep in her/his heart, you want her/him to succeed? That he is smart? That she is valued? That you are open to his smart influence? That she will be listened to?)
Thanks, Connery, for your wisdom. When you’re back from sabbatical, let's grab a cup of coffee, eh?