Last week in training, the principle of the school where I teach showed us a video of students sharing their hopes for the upcoming year.  A recurring theme in all of their responses was their hope for a “nice” teacher.  What is nice anyway?  She asked us what this meant for a teacher.  It got me thinking about something a student told me once…

From the first day of class, I had a poor attitude about a certain student.  I didn’t really want this student in my class.  She just rubbed me the wrong way and irritated me.  Actually, she sort-of reminded me of the “cool” girls that I was so jealous of in middle/high school–the ones I hated but actually wanted to be like.  It’s funny how you can see someone and instantly make a judgement call about them.  (People do it all the time, even if they don’t mean to.  I’m pretty sure that even if someone says they don’t judge others, they really do.  We can’t help it.)

Over the course of the year, I tried to change my attitude.  Obviously this student was not leaving my class, so I needed to figure out a way to get some mutual respect going instead of thinking badly of her all year.  I guess I prayed about it; I wanted to find something good in her, so I started looking.  You know, as soon as I did that, the negative things seemed to turn into positive things.  This student really began to delight me with her confidence and leadership, her wit and humor, and the way she loved life, I guess.  She didn’t care about looking silly or what others thought of her.  She tried and did what she could, and the rest didn’t really matter.  I found that I enjoyed her because she was different than I am.  I now think about her with pleasure, and she’s a student that I wouldn’t mind having for a second time.

The part that really surprised me was at the end of the year.  As the students went around and shared thoughts and memories from the year, this girl spoke up.  She spoke to me, “At the beginning of the year, I thought you were going to be a mean teacher…but now, I think you’re really nice.” How ironic, I thought.

I wonder if people’s perceptions of you has to do with your perceptions of them?  If I enjoy being around someone, perhaps they think I’m nice?  Or if I hate someone’s guts, would it surprise you if they said I was mean?

This lesson is kind of teaching me a little about being a teacher, as well as being a person.  I’m realizing that even if there is someone that I don’t like at first, it’s important to look past your initial impressions.  We need to find the good in each other.  And I really believe that I couldn’t have done it without prayer.  I know that without Jesus I’m an incredibly selfish person who wouldn’t care a bit about anyone else.

So, I guess the lesson is: If you want others to like you, like them first.  Seems simple, but I guess it took me a year to figure it out.

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