Sarah, Me, Rachel and Lou in the fall of 2004.
When I was teaching sixth grade at Brown Middle School in Newton, Massachusetts, I was part of a team of four teachers. Sarah taught math, I taught social studies, Rachel taught science, and Lou was the English teacher. Sarah, Rachel, and I became fast friends. All three of us were in our mid-twenties, newly married, and not long out of graduate school. We spent our planning periods in one another’s classrooms strategizing and destressing. We were all dedicated teachers and we enjoyed our jobs.
Lou was didn’t hang out with us. Just a year away from retirement, he was a generation above us and had been teaching public school his entire career. Lou had seen one education reform initiative after another be introduced only to be revised and eventually replaced. Instead of digging into the newest curriculum he stuck to doing things his own way, the old way, which was a way the three of us often deemed out-of-date. His classroom was bare bones, his lessons unchanged.
And yet, every morning at 8:15 when the school doors opened and our 88 11-year-olds came into the building they rushed straight to Lou’s room to hang out. When Lou walked down the halls he was mobbed by kids vying to talk to him. On field trips everyone wanted to be on Lou’s bus and sit with Lou at lunch. He was overwhelmingly popular and definitely the most liked teacher on our team.
One night in December I was out for drinks with a friend from grad school. We were talking about work and I was telling her about my students, about the lessons I was preparing on ancient Egypt, about my friends Rachel and Sarah, and about Lou. “I can’t figure it out,” I said. “Even though we’re the ones working so hard, the kids love Lou. They absolutely love him.”
She turned to me and asked me something I’ll never forget. “Does he love them?” she said.
And of course the answer was yes. Lou loved them. Of all the people Lou could choose to spend time with in the world Lou loved being with 11-year-olds best. And they knew it. His love for them made all the difference.
I think about Lou often now even though I’m doing something very different professionally. When you sell a product, or write a blog, or have a business of any kind you will find yourself interacting with people who consume what you create. They’ll write you emails, leave you comments, ask you questions, and sometimes criticize you. How you respond makes all the difference. Do you appreciate them? Are you dedicated to them?
Businesses that succeed are led by people who, like Lou, love the people the serve.
So true! My daughter, who is now in 3rd grade, had a teacher for first grade who had been teaching at that very school since before *I* was born! He retired after that year. Like Lou in your story, he had seen educational reforms and initiatives come and go. He knew what worked and boy did the kids love him. He had his strengths and weaknesses in the classroom, but his best quality was his love for the kids and his ability to get to know each and every one of them and appreciate their individuality without stereotyping them or attributing behavior to personality. He’s a gem.
This was a lovely way to start my day. I’m a former public school special education teacher and now teach sewing at a local quilt shop. I’ll be thinking of this as I spend time with my sewing students this morning – I do adore them all.
Jamie Bourgeois says
So funny you post about this topic. Just yesterday I was thinking about how my daughter and I will be putting together hand written thank you notes for those who bought Girl Scout Cookies from her. My reason is similar- appreciation. Showing appreciation seems to be something of a lost art, and those who support you and seek you out (for girl scout cookies, your knowledge, or a product) should be shown that you do truly appreciate them. They will, like Lou’s students, come back because they feel the sincerity of that appreciation. It’s reciprocal. I apply this to my own customer base, and every person who orders from me gets a hand written thank you. It goes a long way.
Rori Jensen says
Thank you for this reminder Abby! When I teach my classes at RoJenDesigns, I want my students to know I love/like having them around and some are now folks I can call “my friends.” They know they are appreciated and that I love sharing my studio space with them. I love what I do and they keep coming back for more!!!
Wise words! Thank you for the reminder – no matter who you are serving.
Remarkable. Thanks so much. Sometimes a little reminder is all we need!
Jordan Slice-Metcalfe says
What a beautiful perspective. Thank you for sharing this, Abby!
Tanya Covington says
Hi, I just read almost everything on your web sight, and I wanted to thank you for all your information that you give to help people who want to start a pattern business. It has helped me so much. I have been a hair salon owner for 27 years, but always had a passion for sewing and making my own patterns. I have came up with some very good ones, and would like to start a new business. I will let you know how it all goes for me after I take all your advice, and hopefully I can be as successful as I was with my hair business. Thanks again, Tanya Covington
That’s awesome Tanya. Good luck to you!