Buttontapper Challenge: Day 12

Coaches – Who are some of the people who have coached you to success along the way?

Answering this question could take some time. And will be long. There are so many, though I’m sure not all the people I’ve learned from would consider themselves my coaches or even know they passed on lessons.

  • Mom and Dad, of course. I never felt they wanted my life to turn out a certain way. They didn’t pressure me to decide to be a teacher, or not to be a teacher. They didn’t pressure me to get married, or not to get married. I always felt they expected me to do my best and that my best would be something special. But I had to make the decisions for myself. Sometimes I knew they were disappointed in my choices. But they allowed me to make my decisions.
  • My teachers. Those I remember most are those who didn’t teach me subjects; they taught me how to use the knowledge I gained through the subjects to be a better version of me. One elementary school teacher in particular helped me deal with my biggest challenge, that tears came all too easily to me and that led to my classmates calling me “Crybaby.” He didn’t join the chorus of other adults who told me repeatedly that I was too old to cry, that I should just stop it. He told me to think of actors (he probably said actresses, I admit) who sometimes need to cry while on the stage or being filmed, even if they don’t feel like crying. He made me feel that being able to express my emotions easily was a gift, not a curse. He helped me see I just needed to learn when to keep the emotions inside and when to let them show instead of thinking I had to keep them all inside all the time. He got me to think about what I could do, not what I should stop doing.
  • My earliest bosses–all men. I learned from all of them, even the one who fired me when I was 19 because I didn’t show him the respect he expected. He was right. I acted on the basis of an assumption and left a note criticizing him where I knew he would see it. My next day at work, he didn’t yell at me or argue with me. He just explained that he no longer needed me on the staff. He gave me my final check that included the hours through the end of my shift. He expected I would leave right away. I stayed. And I learned later that he said he respected me for staying even though he had fired me. Through the experience, I learned to examine my first impressions instead of acting on assumptions. I probably would have learned that lesson anyway, but it was a lesson best learned sooner than later.
  • My women bosses. There aren’t many of them, especially since my career left me changing bosses about every seven to fourteen months as either I moved to my next assignment or a new boss rotated into the post of my current assignment. Alice Bens at the American Language Institute in San Francisco. Shirley Milgrom at American Guidance Service in Circle Pines, MN. Marilyn Hoffman and Mary Stearns at CPT in Eden Prairie, MN. Mary McAteer and Jane Whitney at the US Consulate General in Stuttgart, Germany. Margaret Murphy and Barbro Owens at the US Embassy in Bridgetown, Barbados. Mary Pendleton at the US Embassy in Chisinau, Moldova. Debra Jones at the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Barbara Bodine at the US Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen. Margaret Dean at the Department of State in Washington, DC. The thread that connects those I benefited from most is that they provided guidance on how to be a better me, not a better teacher or children’s educational materials writer or software engineer or Foreign Service Officer.
    • I believe Mrs. Bens (we would never dare call her by her first name) considered herself a coach for all who worked for her. Her job was to turn us into teachers of English as a Second Language who would move into permanent positions elsewhere.
    • Marilyn asked the typical questions during performance reviews (Where do you see yourself in five years?) and then provided guidance on how to get there, even when my honest, but foolish, answer was that I expected to join the US Department of State as a Foreign Service Officer, not the more politically correct response of wanting to move into a supervisory position at CPT, the company that employed us both.
    • Margaret Murphy was a tough supervisor who insisted her staff do things her way. After a few months I concluded that either she didn’t think I had the makings of a good Foreign Service Officer or she just didn’t like me very much. But once I moved into a new position at the same embassy, she became my biggest booster. If I had needed a publics relations representative, I would have chosen Margaret.
    • Mary Pendleton demonstrated how quiet power and authority accomplished more than bluster and insistence, the tactics I had observed so many of my male supervisors use. Her example helped me accept that I didn’t have to change who I am at my core to succeed, though my definition of success might not match the definitions others would try to impose on me.
  • Writer friends who encourage me to keep writing even while they point out when what I’ve written isn’t the best it could be. Among them are Lola Sparrowhawk Kohen, Caroline McCullagh, Dave Feldman, Syd Love, Al Converse, Susan Burns, Ken Yaros, Chavah Siegel, John Robinson, Rivkah Sleeth, Audrea Listz, Chaya Schonberger, George Geller, Johnnie Thompson, Lydia Hilton, and Sally Eckberg from my Wednesday morning read-and-critique group.
  • Writer friends I met through the San Diego Writers and Editors Guild, especially the Board of Directors: Ruth Leyse-Wallace, Mardie Schroeder, Bob Doublebower, Marcia Buompensiero, Laurie Asher, Rick Peterson, Gered Beeby, Dave Feldman, Simone Arias, Val Zolfaghari, Anne Janda, Janet Hafner, Frank Newton, Laura Roberts, Adolpho Sanchez, and Ken Yaros,
  • My husband, who keeps pointing out that I can’t add any more activities to my schedule or I’ll not complete the tasks I have already committed to doing, at the same time as he tells me I can accomplish anything I set out to do. And that he’ll be there if I fall down.

The last three bullets look like a draft for an acknowledgements page for my work-in-progress. An appropriate point to wrap this one up, I think.


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