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Monday, 25 March 2019
INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL APPOINTMENTS

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What’s in a Name? Thoughts From a “Talent Developer”

By Brett D. McLeod


What’s in a Name? Thoughts From a “Talent Developer”
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”
— William Shakespeare

Last summer I was invited by a former employer come friend to join him at a major-league baseball game. Better yet, tickets were for the team’s Diamond Club, in which patrons enjoy premium seats, amenities, and concessions. Naturally, I accepted. We would not be alone, he warned me, as my friend would be entertaining of two very important clients.

On learning this, I suggested that he focus on consolidating his business relationship, fearing my presence might prove an encumbrance. He disagreed, arguing that my experience in his industry would help promote his particular brand of business while my adventures abroad as an international educator might prove an interesting change of conversation.

Game day, 7 p.m. My friend’s clients arrived at the entrance to the club where we were introduced. We then made our way to our seats, a row behind home plate.

The atmosphere was sublime—perfect temperature, superlative vista, and a communal energy that hummed. Then came that question ritualistic to all introductory conversations: “So what do you do?”

Determined to sustain the congeniality among us for the benefit of my friend, I answered, “I’m a talent developer.”

My audience, keenly intelligent, affluent, and potentially disdainful were I to risk sharing my actual job title as I ordinarily do, stiffened, intrigued.

“Really? So, exactly what kind of talents do you develop?” they asked.

“Those necessary for success,” I replied.

Urged to share more, I explained my work involved identifying areas for redress among clients via discussion, observation, and pre-testing, so that strategies could be formulated to help them fulfill individual needs.

Noting that success is similarly founded on playing to strengths, and that many people are unaware of what theirs might be, I added their identification also played prominently in my work. The aim, I explained, was to assist clients in refining these strengths for more fruitful exploitation.

“What skills do you focus on specifically?” the businessmen asked.

I responded, “The ability to communicate information clearly, articulately, succinctly, and persuasively before an audience and in writing is consistently a priority, as is the deliberate exercise of listening.”

“Listening?” they queried.

I submitted listening was a crucial yet grossly underutilized skill. I proposed that real listening requires serious practice and discipline but that the benefits to be had were manifold, asserting ideas and knowledge necessary for the advancement of one’s personal ambitions is greatly facilitated thereby.

“When you talk you’re only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new,” I explained, quoting the Dalai Lama.

Discussion of clients augmenting their ability to comprehend and analyze information, determine fact from fiction, and deduce essentials from non-essentials was then had. A conversation on cultivating winning social skills to increase the probability of establishing and maintaining cordial, productive, and successful relationships naturally followed.

Suddenly, the senior partner declared, “We’d like to hire you. This type of coaching could give us the competitive advantage we need for our business.”

I answered that, though honored, my client load was fixed. “Besides,” I added, “you’re too old.” Their heads recoiled. “I’m a kindergarten teacher,” I explained. Response? Guffaws.

When I asked these gentlemen if they would have taken me as seriously had I introduced myself as a teacher, and a kindergarten teacher at that, they replied no. But why? As I explained to them, while my profession may be judged unexceptional by today’s standards, it doesn’t render what teachers do any less vital. Yes. Vital.

Regrettably, elementary and secondary school teachers are too often depreciated, referred to as “just teachers.” Perhaps this is because those who have had the privilege of an education are so familiar with us and, as the English writer William Hazlitt once posited, while this “familiarity may not always breed contempt, it takes the edge off admiration.”

Shakespeare may have been right about the rose, but names sometimes put people off, evoking disregard and impudence too. That is why titles like “sanitation engineer” were invented, and rightly so. Nobody wants to be called a garbage man, as honest and indispensable as their job might be.

While many may deem the teaching profession prosaic, the contributions teachers make are nonetheless integral to the social, emotional, and cognitive development of almost everybody’s life. That is why we must be good at what we do and thoughtful in how we do it.

Hubristic though this might sound, teachers are the conduit from which all human enterprise emanates. Indeed, the very sustainment and advancement of civilization itself depends upon the skills and understandings that teachers are entrusted to impart. How many other professions can claim the same?

Among our ranks stand giants of human history, men and women who have catapulted and shaped our progress and spirituality as a species. Our personal contributions as educators may not be as pronounced as those of the Buddha, Confucius, or Curie, but they matter no less to those in our care. So walk tall and take pride in the fact that the difference you make matters to us all.

Brett McLeod is Elementary Assistant Principal at the International School Yangon, Myanmar.




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