Inspire Greatness

Original composition written in 2012
Edited: October 12, 2020

Before my ten-year run of being a full-time mom, my title declared me teacher at a special ed school.  During this time, I spent three years instructing high school students on how to use computer keyboards, and I devised lesson plans to increase their typing speeds, hoping it would some day benefit them in “the real world.”  Most of my students greatly excelled and enjoyed my class.  Few others chose to see our time together as a bore.  (I could hardly blame them.  That’s the job of a teenager—to undermine the importance of what they are learning at the time they are learning it.  But that didn’t stop me from encouraging their growth.)

One year in particular, I had a very determined redheaded teenager in my class with a jock-like attitude.  I’ll call him Brad.  He just knew my class spelled failure for himself, so why even try to do well or waste his time with what I wanted him to learn?  Day in and day out, I watched as his shoulders slumped over the keyboard, his face reflecting complete indifference to the task before him.  As an educator, discouragement taunted me.  As a creative thinker, I knew there had to be some way to entice this young man’s learning; but what was his currency?

One day, about three weeks into the school year, I pulled Brad aside and asked what I could do as his teacher to make the class more enjoyable for him, so he would want to learn.  I expressed my genuine desire for wanting to help him achieve success—not only in my class, but in life.  I would help him out in any way I could, but he needed to take responsibility for doing his part, as well.  

Our conversation went something like this:

ME:  “Brad, I get the distinct feeling you don’t understand the importance of my keyboarding class.”  A blank stare confirmed my suspicions.  “Can you name for me one way good typing skills will benefit you once you leave high school?”

BRAD:  “Honestly, Mrs. G, I don’t see how this class is going to help me in the real world.”

ME:  “You don’t, huh?  Well, I appreciate your honesty.”  I tried holding back a smirk.  “Are you planning on going to college after you graduate?”

BRAD:  “Probably…I mean, yeah.”  He stood by my desk, impatient, wanting to leave.

ME:  “Are you planning on dating cute girls and continuing to play sports while you’re there?”

BRAD:  A bright shade of pink colored his fair complexion.  “Of course.”

ME:  “Then your time is going to be important,” I emphasized.  “You’re not planning on being stuck inside typing up college-length papers one finger at a time, are you?  Wouldn’t you prefer being outside tossing the football around with the guys or hanging out with your girlfriend?”

Brad folded his arms and tilted his head to the side, rolling his eyes the same direction.  “I’ll have someone else type it up for me.”  A sly smile surfaced on his face when the belief dawned on him that he’d outwitted me.

ME:  “Really?  You’d pay someone else to type up an assignment you could do yourself instead of spending precious money taking the pretty blonde out you just met earlier in the week?  That doesn’t sound like you,” I teased.  “But that’s not all.” I waited for his attention. “You’ll be amazed how much you’re going to use your typing skills, once you leave high school. Why, there’s barely a job out there these days that doesn’t require you to know how to type and use a computer, at some point.  I promise you, this class is more important than you think.”  I smiled.

BRAD lowered his arms:  “So, how fast do people need to know how to type?”  He gestured at one of the classroom keyboards with his hand.  (I could see the wheels turning in his head.)

ME:  “How fast would you like to type?” I challenged him.  “I’d say an average speed with good accuracy is about 48-52 words per minute–something I know you can reach if you put your mind to it.”  

Brad looked at me for a long moment and then asked:  “How fast do you type?”

ME:  “Faster than the average bear.”  

I grinned.  He chuckled.  

ME:  “How about I make you a deal.  If you can bring your words up to 48WPM with near perfect accuracy, I will allow you to do whatever you want with your time while in this class, as long as it’s related to education.  You can use it as a study period or do research for other classes.  All I ask is that you set this one goal for yourself.  Once you attain it, the decision on how you spend the rest of your time in my classroom this year will be up to you.  Fair enough?”

BRAD:  “Are you serious?  You’d let me do that?”  His interest piqued.

ME:  “I’m serious.  I don’t think 48WPM is too much to expect from you.”

BRAD:  “I’m going to try to do that then,” he agreed.  “Do you really think I can?”

ME:  “I know you can.”

BRAD:  “So, one more thing…I just have to know.  How fast do bears type?”  His smile widened.

ME:  “This one types 62WPM, and that’s without trying.”  I returned his smile.

As the semester progressed, so did Brad’s typing speed and accuracy.  Every day he finished a class and handed in a paper, he would remind me, “I’m getting closer, Mrs. G.  I’m almost to 48WPM.”

I’d smile back and affirm, “I’m proud of you. You’re almost there.  I told you you could do it.  I still believe you can!”  His neck and cheeks would turn bright pink, and he would nod his acknowledgement before exiting my classroom.

Before the end of the semester arrived, I heard a loud, “YES!  I DID IT!” from Brad’s work station.  Immediate pride filled my heart, as I knew what had just happened.  I’m sure it reflected on my face as well.

I walked over to Brad and patted his shoulder. His screen displayed his speed drill score of 48WPM–near perfect accuracy.  “Looks like you’ve reached your goal.  I’m so proud of you!” I nodded at the accomplishment.  “My word still stands.  You don’t have any more homework in this class from now until the end of the year, but I do expect you to use your time wisely.”

Brad looked at me with the most sincere eyes and said, “But I haven’t reached my goal yet, Mrs. G.  What’s my next assignment?”

I stood there, puzzled.  “I don’t know.”

He recognized my confusion and smiled.  “I’ve always known it’s been your goal for me to reach 48WPM, so that’s what I’ve strived for; but, that’s never been my goal.”

“No?”  I stood there in shock.  “I don’t understand.”

He shook his head.  “No.  I figured, if you believed I could make it to 48WPM, then I must have what it takes inside of me to beat your score, and I don’t see anywhere on my computer where it says 62WPM yet, so…I need my next assignment.” Confidence exuded from him as he reached out his hand, as if waiting for me to present him with the next challenge.

I don’t know how long I stood there amazed by the difference that had come over Brad in the few short months he had been in my class, but what I do remember was the lesson I learned that day: never underestimate the importance you have on the lives of those around you.  What you do and who you are inspires greatness when directed by God.  Allow your heart to connect to the needs of those God places in your life; and, when you do, God will inspire greatness.

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