I was a horrible student in high school, and prided myself on never taking home a book, which earned me the distinction of graduating at the bottom of my class. When I was in my twenties, I realized that I wanted an education, but had serious doubts about my abilities/intellect. I considered myself to be a poor student (which I certainly was), but didn’t know if this was just because I wasn’t smart, or because I never tried. By this time, I also had 2 small children at home.
During my second semester at a community college, I became friends with my Chemistry professor. She and I were about the same age, and occasionally went out for a drink (more about this part of my story at a later time!) after class with a few other students. One evening during casual conversation, she asked me how I was doing in my other classes. I said, “I’ve gotten mostly B’s”. She then looked me in the eyes and said, “That is not good enough for you.”
This woman, who had a master’s degree and was teaching at the community college level, saw me as an A student?! My life changed in that moment. I started studying like my life depended on it. Shortly thereafter, I transferred my credits to a University, graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, received a full scholarship to graduate school (to study Economics…this is a long story!) and eventually was accepted at Harvard Divinity School.
It was almost 30 years ago that Martha (I cannot remember her last name) said those words to me. I don’t remember much about Chemistry; what she had to teach me didn’t have anything to do with that. She saw something in me that I hadn’t yet recognized, and had the courage to say it. We are all teachers in this incredible classroom of life. Our words matter…more than we can ever know. Thank you Martha!
“Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!” Anne Frank