My son struggled with organization and deadlines all through junior high. When he began his sophomore year at Lone Peak High School, the rigors of demanding classes and extra-curricular activities completely overwhelmed him. He was falling behind in classwork and struggled to meet his obligations, especially in band class. Feeling desperate and defeated, he approached his band teacher, Mr. Curtis McKendrick. Together they talked about my son’s low grade and failure to put in the required practice time on his instrument.
At this point I would have expected Mr. McKendrick to turn my son away with a “too bad for you” shrug of his shoulders and let him fail the course. He would have had every right to do so. Instead, Mr. McKendrick pulled up a chair, looked my son in the eye, and asked him a question: “Do you know what makes a leader?” he said. “It’s not about being the best at something; it is about being willing to work hard.” Mr. McKendrick explained that while my son had made mistakes in the past, he saw leadership potential in him. Rather than focusing on my son’s weaknesses, Mr. McKendrick decided to focus on my son’s strengths. Mr. McKendrick then asked my son to take on a leadership role in his band section and said that if he proved himself to be a leader in that capacity, it would help to redeem his failing grade. My son and I were both dumbfounded by Mr. McKendrick’s response. My son expected to be raked across the coals and lectured about his failings. Instead, he left Mr. McKendrick’s classroom feeling empowered, confident, and full of hope.
It has been several months since Mr. McKendrick had this conversation with my son, and the change in my son’s behavior has been miraculous. He has shown more initiative, responsibility, and follow-through than I have ever seen in his 10 years of schooling. With Mr. McKendrick ‘s encouragement, my son has not only become a better musician, but he has become a better student, a better leader, and a better person. Good teachers give their students the skills needed to succeed in the course, but exceptional teachers like Curtis McKendrick also give students, such as my son, the skills they need to succeed in life.
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