She was not my favourite professor.

My idea of a great educator is that of a person who is oozing with extraordinary confidence, able to answer every question, academic or otherwise. She must be accomplished, well respected, and popular inside and outside the academe.

Nope, she was not ideal either. In fact, she could pass as one of the College of Human Sciences students. Not a standout. She was petite (no offence meant). Pardon my being idealistic when it comes to height and appearance, at least when I was still an undergraduate.

As I recall, my Broadcasting, Magazine Writing, and Intro to Mass Communication instructor had her own sets of flaws. She was often tied to her gigantic notebook filled with lecture notes, which she would painstakingly copy onto the board using those infamous chalk sticks that would make you cough if you sat close to the teacher’s desk. Her voice could hardly be heard by those who happened to be seated at the back. Our room was good for 50 or 60 students.

That’s how the classes were done, then.

We would endure an hour-long lecture, and then expect to be tested on the same content — not my idea of how a class should be especially now that I am a strong advocate of a truly holistic education and being a college educator.

I no longer have any news about this communications professor of mine. The last time I visited Saint Louis University, I noticed new faces. Maybe, she had moved on.

But wherever she is, she must still be putting “a dent in the universe”, to borrow a phrase by Steve Jobs.

You see, she may not be an impressive classroom teacher because of her inability to sustain attention. (Well, the issue on limited attention span is not a new thing. It has been there since time immemorial). She would sometimes crack a joke, but we would respond with a smile or a pretentious “we-got-the-joke-madam” kind of response out of politeness.

In fairness, she did try her best. She worked hard. She was always on time. And she was quite approachable and friendly. Others found her jolly.

But there was more to this teacher than met the eye. And so, teachers, bosses, parents, and communication specialists (like me), if you are reading, don’t miss this: Many times, what counts is NOT what we know, NOT our expertise, and NOT even our eloquence. Often, what leaves a dent is what we SAY.

What this simple professor created a different path for my life, and forever changed my destiny. Its impact still bears its mark on me now that I have been able to accomplish things for myself and make a difference in the lives of those I train and the organisations that benefit from my consultancy work. And, while I enjoy writing (academic, creative, etc.), I love broadcasting and audio work a little bit more. Why? Because of this educator.

Words are powerful. They either make or break a person. This teacher of mine chose to build one struggling student.

You see, I was clueless as to what the future held for me way back in college. Would I be a writer or what? I was active in school journalism. Maybe, I would end up as a newspaper reporter, but my relatives doubted it. A sickly, scrawny, and unimpressive guy like me would never make it into the very competitive world of media.

Of course, I would prove them wrong a few years later, but that’s another article worth a LinkedIn space.

Anyhow, it seemed I had no choice. Since I was in comm, I thought I should be landing in any comm-related job. A communication course became a default program for me since my family could not afford chemical engineering or pharmacy, my top two choices.

One chilly afternoon in the city of Baguio, my group mates and I were inside the production booth. I believe we just finished recording our TV newscasts. Then out of the blue, this teacher uttered a remark from the other side of the booth: “Raffy, I want you to replace that guy on channel _____”.

She was referring to a male newscaster whom I happened to idolise because of the way he handled every evening news program. In fact, in one radio news task, I patterned my script after their newscast.

My classmates were perhaps a bit jealous. But I was SURPRISED. SHOCKED, actually.

A timid and introvert like me going into TV? Did I even have the voice quality? The old school training that I had in broadcasting required a Barry Manilow-type of voice. And struggling with self-esteem issues, would I even have the personality to be on television?

But my teacher’s words kept reverberating.

Soon, I was enjoying her class, broadcasting for that matter, and I was not producing a project to have a grade or to pass, but to do something that was building my confidence and showcasing my talents.

What is the point dear bosses, consultants, communicators, and experts?

We were gifted with a Helen Keller because of an Ann Sullivan. Ann never stopped believing in her stubborn student, and she was undaunted by Helen’s physical disabilities. For Helen, it was the word W-A-T-E-R, which Ann spelt on the former’s palm that transformed her life.

As for me, the words were not even explicit. Implicitly, my teacher was saying, “Raffy, you will be a broadcaster someday! I believe in you.”

I did become a broadcast professional for decades. In fact, I spent more years in broadcasting than in journalism/writing.

Again, what is the whole point?

Take this: Find a way to express kind, positive, and empowering words to those who cross your paths. Those whom you are able to meet, no matter how fleeting, may be impacted not by your seminar and wits, but by your sincere, kind, and empowering words.

For some, a kind or encouraging phrase could spell the difference.

I now have faint memories of how my teacher’s face looks like, but I can vividly recall her words.

Her statement changed my destiny for it was an expression of faith.

She believed in my abilities.

She saw my future, and she made sure she communicated it to me — and to the entire class — what she saw about my future career.

#RaffyISantos #speakwell #marketingcommunication



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Rafael Santos

Rafael Santos

Communication & Research Consultant, PhD Candidate (English Studies, UPDiliman), Comm Educator (UA&P), Active Researcher, Writing to inspire & impact others