My wife is a substitute school teacher. After 10 years of teaching public school in Fort Worth, she took off 20 years to raise children. With our youngest in college, she has returned to the classroom. She told me a story this weekend about an incident in her classroom last week.
There was a second grade boy in her class who just could not get with the program. He spoke out instead of raising his hand. When he did raise his hand, he made all sorts of pained noises. He was always talking to a neighbor, getting out of his seat, fidgeting and dropping things. My wife has a special tolerance for this sort of thing. Our own son was like this. She home schooled him for 5 years to make sure that no one mistook him for a bad kid and crushed his tremendous creativity, affectionate self-confidence and passion for learning.
As it turns out, the class she was teaching needed to borrow rulers from another teacher. My wife is very serious about taking perfect care of borrowed things. She is loathe to lend her carefully maintained property and frustrated when people return it damaged. She stressed over and over to her little second grade class that they needed to be careful with these borrowed, plastic rulers.
The active boy I mentioned was happily working away on this assignment, talking up a storm and bending the ruler constantly as he worked. As could be foreseen, he broke it in three pieces. With dread visible all over him, he brought the broken pieces to my wife.
With a voice full of compassion, she informed him that he needed to do the right thing and take the ruler down the hall to the owner and tell her that he was sorry but he’d broken her ruler. He beseeched my wife, with tears in his eyes, to not make him do this. She asked him if he knew what the word “gallant” meant. “It means to be brave and do the right thing. I need you to be gallant and tell the teacher what happened.”
Slowly he walked down the hall with the pieces of ruler in his hand. With shoulders stooped, he explained to the teacher what had happened. She listened with a soft heart and thanked him for telling her, then sent him back to his room. My wife thanked him for being gallant and had him return to his desk. She saw little second grade hands reaching out to him as he worked his way back to his desk. Everyone wanted to express their admiration for the brave boy who did the right thing.
When the project was completed and the rulers were collected, my wife asked the active (gallant) boy to take the rulers back to the teacher who lent them. She received them from him warmly and thanked him by name. She did not know his name before that day but since returning the broken ruler, she knows his name and his reputation is fixed in her mind as a brave boy who does the right thing.
Maybe you find yourself looking for a new job because your reputation was not everything it should have been. If some of your past life is alive on the internet, social media is a great way to move it off of page one and to page 15 of Google search results. Take some classes, learn some new skills, work on your greatest weaknesses and update LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc to reflect the new person you are working to become. Become involved in causes that help other people and promote those organizations via social media. Now is the right time to be brave and do the right things. The people who meet you now will know you for who you are and not who you were.
Good Luck and Godspeed!
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