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Life's Most Important Assignment?

most_important_assignment_in_lifeThis is one of my favorite stories.

As a teacher (or in any field) life's most important assignment is not just to follow our rigid job description or to simply check items off of our daily to-do list...

One day a teacher decided to do something different.

She wanted her class to complete an assignment that they would all remember.

So, rather than completing another worksheet, she asked her students to list the names of the other students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name.

She told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down.  It took the remainder of the class period for them to finish the assignment, and as the students left the room, each one handed in the papers.

That Saturday, the teacher wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper, and listed what everyone else had said about that individual.

On Monday she gave each student his or her list.

Before long, the entire class was smiling.

'Really?' she heard whispered. 'I never knew that I meant anything to anyone!' and, 'I didn't know others liked me so much,' were some of the appreciative comments she heard.

None of her students mentioned those papers in class again.

She never knew if they discussed them after class or with their parents, but it didn't matter.

The exercise had accomplished its purpose. The students were happy with themselves and one another. They felt noticed and valuable, and soon that group of students moved on.

Several years later, one of the students was killed in Vietnam and his teacher attended the funeral. She had never seen a serviceman in a military coffin before.

He looked so handsome, so mature.

The church was packed with his friends.

One by one those who loved him took a last walk by the coffin. The teacher was one of the last ones to approach the coffin.  As she stood there, one of the soldiers who had acted as a pallbearer came up to her.

'Were you Mark's math teacher?' he asked.

She nodded: 'yes.' Then he said: 'Mark talked about you a lot.'

After the funeral, many of Mark's former classmates went together to a luncheon. Mark's mother and father were there, obviously waiting to speak with his teacher.

'We want to show you something,' his father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket 'They found this on Mark when he was killed.  We thought you might recognize it.'

Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had been taped, folded and refolded many times. The teacher knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which she had listed all the things each of Mark's classmates had said about him.

'Thank you so much for doing that,' Mark's mother said. 'You can see, Mark treasured it.'

Mark's former classmates started to gather around. Charlie smiled rather sheepishly and said, 'I still have my list. It's in the top drawer of my desk at home.'

'I have mine too,' Marilyn said. 'It's in my diary'

Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her tattered list to the group. 'I carry this with me at all times,' Vicki said.  After a brief pause, she continued: 'I think we all saved our lists'

That's when the teacher finally sat down and cried.  She cried for Mark and for the friends who would never see him again.  But she was also grateful.

The world sometimes gets so busy doing things that seem important that we forget to remind the people around us that they are important.

Whether you are a teacher or work with people in any other capacity, you may not ever learn how cherished your words of recognition are for many years…

I encourage you to tell the people around you why they are special and important.

My wife came home yesterday upset, having learned that a beloved security guard at her hospital had passed away unexpectedly.  Eddie was a warm, friendly, and enthusiastic older man who brightened the world - and my wife is certainly not alone in wishing she had shared her appreciation for who he was when he was still here to hear it.

While you still have the chance, let your people know what you appreciate about them.  Gratitude and recgognition are quite possibly the mst powerful motivators and relationship builders in the world.

If your team could use a day of laughter to strengthen connections and become more aware of each others strengths, consider the benefits of a teacher team building event.

Letting others know they are valued and helping them to see their best traits may be life’s most important assignment…


For more team building and leadership resources, you can follow me on twitter!



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Sean shares insights on teamwork and leadership to improve your team motivation, morale, and productivity - inspiring you to LEAD from where you are!

If you are searching for an interactive bonding experience, challenging activities to strengthen relationships and leadership skills, or an engaging speaker to share a motivational message at your next meeting, contact Sean to transform your group into a more productive TEAM!


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Guest Saturday, 25 October 2014

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