More than a Title to be Influential / by James Leath

I ran into one of my favorite teachers a few years ago. I was curious as to how he always seemed to know exactly how to teach something in a way that made sense to me. Mr. Denton smiled, pushed up his glasses just like he did when I was in his 8th grade class, and said,

Old wisdom I have found to be true reads, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I knew Mr. Denton cared about us. I don't know how, but I just knew. If you want to be an effective teacher, coach, manager, or parent, you need more than a title to be influential. Whatever role you have in a person’s life, you can only impact a person as far as they let you.

When I teach and coach, I follow a four-step process I learned from a coach I had in high school. It is the same formula I use with 6th graders and professional athletes.

  • Educate. Break the lesson into bite size chunks.

  • Demonstrate. Go as slow as your audience needs and be sure the audience has the talent/resources/imagination to complete the task.

  • Imitate. Let them do it. Let them fail without rude or condescending comments.

  • Repeat. Some need longer than others to get it right, so be patient and tolerate a slow learner in exchange for an effective performance.

Some words you don’t see in that list is embarrass, condescend, bully, or patronize, techniques reinforced by sitcoms and news shows on Comedy Central. In teaching, these techniques are incredibly valuable if your goal is to be as influential as a feather in a windstorm.

Leave the sarcasm and humiliating jokes to the television. Show your student/athlete/child respect and watch them grow into the adult this world needs. We need more leaders, not comedians talking about how horrible the adults that raised them were.