Many of us have experienced that tiny moment when someone broke through and ignited a spark that moved us in a new direction or toward a new way of thinking. I would venture to guess that for many of us, that moment happened with a teacher. One seemingly insignificant moment that reached in and grabbed hold and shifted the trajectory of every step taken thereafter.
Greg Bell has spoken at our FUSION conferences. He is the author of “Water The Bamboo®: Unleashing The Potential Of Teams And Individuals”, and founder of the Water The Bamboo Center For Leadership. Greg was the first in his family to graduate from college; he played basketball at the University of Oregon where he was twice named Inspirational Player of the Year. After receiving a political science and law degree from the University of Oregon, he practiced law within a large organization. Today Greg lives in Portland with his family and works with groups all around the country. This is Greg’s story of his “teacher moment” in his own words.
Who was your favorite teacher and why?
Mr. Ralph Bergstrom was that teacher for me. Why? Because he taught more than social studies—he taught about life. He was very inspiring to me and convinced me—at a time when I didn’t think I could do anything—to go to law school. At the time I did not have that high opinion about my abilities nor did I have any direction or guidance. He planted that seed for me without knowing a lot about me. He did this by telling me one day that I was smart, a good writer, and I should think about going to law school. After that, when people ask me what were my future plans I would say I am going to go to law school and become a lawyer even though I had no idea what that meant. In many ways it was a self-fulfilling prophecy, the more I said it the more I believed it and when it became true I knew it started in a short hallway conversation 9 years earlier.
How did that teacher influence your life as you grew up?
Mr. Bergstrom loved Teddy Roosevelt and had a photo of Teddy hung in the classroom. Every time I came into the classroom the photo would be crooked and I would walk in the classroom and straighten the picture. During the lecture, he would tilt it back while looking directly at me. I believe he was teaching me that sometimes things need to be a bit off to see them correctly. Ever since then I approach things from different angles—in life sometimes—you just have to tilt it!
What would you say to that teacher today if you could?
To the world you may be one teacher; but to one student you may be the world.