Inspiring Teachers!

August 1, 2011

This is more a request than a posting –  I’m writing to ask if you could spare a few moments to share a story about a teacher who has been an inspiration to you.

Here at International House Milan we hold an annual conference for local state school teachers of English. This year’s event will be held on 21 October and we expect at least 150 teachers to attend sessions given by guest speakers from the United Kingdom and Spain.

I would love to start the conference with some inspiring stories of inspirational teachers.

Was there a teacher who helped you achieve the success you enjoy today? Did any of your teachers help you see the world in a different way or encourage you to make the most of your talents?  Anything you might be able to share – from a few words to a short anecdote – would be a great boost for the teachers at the conference.

If you can help by writing a few lines it would be a greatly appreciated. Some people have even sent a short video clip!

Please send your inspirational stories to me using the form here!

Many thanks!


As a boy, whenever I was asked the perennial question –‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ – The answer for me was obvious – “The Incredible Hulk” – What else could a young lad growing up in the seventies say?

It’s still the answer I give now.

I spent hours watching the TV show – the great Bill Bixby played David Banner – the forlorn alter ego of Lou Ferrigno’s eponymous green giant. It was a show full of excitement and mystery too. For example, how come Bill Bixby’s purple cords didn’t split round the waist? Why didn’t the Hulk have David Banner’s hairstyle? The biggest mystery of all was, of course, Bill Bixby’s reluctance to take full advantage of his powers. “Don’t make me angry,” he repeated, “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” Ever the drifter,  David Banner’s sole life mission – in which he failed to a staggering degree – was to avoid situations that might lead him to lose his temper – (my favourite was when David found himself at the controls of a pilot-less plane – as you do – he spends three excruciating minutes in mid-change fighting the demon raging within whilst also trying to land the plane. TV gold!)

But why the reluctance? Can you imagine if every time you got angry you turned into a six-foot eight raging green monster? Why would you ever want to remain calm? I’d wind myself up for fun! The next time a teacher came to my door with the intention of upsetting me, I’d look up (possibly throw in a wink) and say “Come on – make me angry! I dare you!” – I’d probably make that high-pitched sound effect they used during the TV show and flash the lights – “Come on…look I feel my blood pressure rising already. Oh, is that a ripping sound?” I mean that’s power for you! The teachers would quickly become self-policing – “Don’t make him angry,” they’d whisper. Brilliant!

So this month’s tip – Let’s get angry!

Well, actually, no. It’s not.

I’ve had my hulk-like moments –I’ve shouted, thrown books off shelves, even kicked my own office door. It’s understandable – management is a high-pressure job – lots of stress, problem solving, people constantly demanding your attention. But getting angry never solves anything and usually makes you look a complete…idiot.

Your responsibility is to help people do their jobs effectively. The only way to do this is to have effective communication with all your team.  You can’t have effective communication if you lose your temper – it produces days, weeks, months of rebuilding the relationship.

So my real tip is this – It’s Ok to feel angry. But it’s not OK to express your anger. So no matter how great the temptation – Don’t throw things at teachers. Don’t lose your temper.

Somebody once declared that all great management decisions come from love. Turning green, ripping your purple cords and smashing up the staffroom doesn’t say ‘I love you.’

Next time you feel angry go outside, take a walk, count to ten and come back and show the teachers that you love them…because you do, don’t you?

Anyone who has ever worked with me speaks fondly of my love of story-telling. There’s nothing my colleagues like more than hearing me reminisce. They often beg me to tell them one of my long, meandering, carefully crafted jokes. Well, actually that’s not entirely true. People have been known to wrestle me to the ground and punch me until I surrender my desire to share my jolly tales.

Some people just have no taste.

I am, however, convinced of the power of the story as a tool for teaching and helping people learn. Some stories just arouse curiosity and interest  – E.g., here’s a  true story from my own school –

Last week I popped into the staffroom in the vain hope that someone might want to buy me a coffee, when I was greeted with an unusual sight – two teachers were lying on the floor under the table. One of them was holding  a glass of water. The other – a roll of masking tape. And between them both sat a small, slightly worried lizard. Now, I’m not  going to tell you why they were there – believe me, you don’t want to know. But you have to admit it  – you’re curious, aren’t you?

Good managers should be story-tellers. People are inspired by stories. Inspired by narrative. Not by statistics. Not by procedures. I am sometimes asked to give trainee teachers tips on how to behave in interviews. Instead of giving them a list of dos-and-don’ts , I prefer to tell them true tales of nightmare interviews I have sat through – E.g., the teacher who told me she loved everything about teaching except ‘those bits in the classroom.’ Just as we all – thanks to Little Red Riding Hood – learnt not to trust grandmothers with snouts and whiskers, so they too can learn what not to say in an interview thanks to the power of the story.

Next time you have a teachers’ meeting, try inspiring the troops with great stories rather than dry facts or procedures.

Speaking of stories, the Reinvention Summit  – a two-week virtual conference focusing on best practices for creating and delivering stories that can help individuals and organisations to reinvent – is currently underway. It’s a gathering of a new tribe of storytellers: change-makers, marketers, entrepreneurs, and creatives who see storytelling as critical to their work and mission.

There’s a star-studded line-up of 25+ speakers with diverse backgrounds to lead teleseminars, interviews, and panel discussions that relate to the future of storytelling as our world goes through reinvention. All sessions are recorded for playback. The online summit includes lots of social networking, collaboration, and crowd-sourcing for those who feel inspired to play. Entry-level pricing starts at just $11.11. To learn more: visit

  • As a reader of this blog, – the organisers of the Reinvention summit –  are kindly offering you two great deals
  • – A coupon for $25 OFF an Activators or Explorers Pass. Use code: REINVENTION
  • “Believe Me: a Storytelling Manifesto for Change-makers and Innovators”. An 88-page gift to you! Complimentary download is available at

Enjoy the summit and keep telling stories!