As a freshman in high school, I was shy, timid and extremely introverted. Fortunately, I had several teachers who believed in me and helped me mature and break out of my shell (I blogged about them here), but it was my health teacher who made a lasting impact on my life.
As a freshman, I was grade-centric--unfortunately I became less focused on academic progress as a sophomore, but that's for another blog. My GPA stood right around 4.0, my teachers loved me, and my classmates looked at me as a top student (i.e. they viewed me as a nerd). But, I was still inordinately shy.
My health teacher, Coach Smith, saw both my strengths and weaknesses as a student, and more importantly, as a whole person. One day, after countless attempts to engage me in class discussions, Mr. Smith had seen enough of my quietness. Perhaps my incessant "I don't know" answers to questions that had no wrong answers or ones where I clearly knew the answer, caused him to snap, "Reed, see me after class."
As a bespectacled ninth grader, I barely tipped the scales at 90lbs; Coach Smith, on the other hand, was the prototypical coach, built like barrel with a no nonsense demeanor. For the rest of the class, I sweated bullets. Never before had a teacher demanded that I stick around after class. Right before class dismissed, Mr. Smith pointed to me and motioned for me to come into the hallway. I don't ever recall being so nervous.
In his typical direct manner he pointed his finger at me, "You're too smart to act so stupid. When I call on you, I expect you to answer and not with 'I don't know.' Class participation is a big part of your grade in this class and if you don't get it together, you're going to fail. Do I make myself clear?"
I stammered out a timid, "Yes, sir."
While I didn't change overnight, Coach Smith's tough love approach forced me to participate. In time I actually became comfortable participating in class. Over the next three years, my relationship with Coach Smith grew stronger. By my senior year, I recognized that his hallway "talk" with me was nothing more than a veiled threat--there was no way he was going to fail me--but at the time I was clueless to that. Coach took advantage of my gullibility and recognized the best way to change me was to scare me. His tough love talk took only thirty seconds, but it made a lifetime of a difference.