My nerves were about to get the best of me.  Walking into my first college class in over 13 years was beyond daunting!  In a sea of 18-22 year olds, this 29 year old was feeling very out of place.  Even though I had eagerly registered for my Into Journalism class, it took everything I had to walk into the class room.  My nerves were at “first day of Jr. High” level.

I swallowed hard, trying to calm the butterflies in my stomach, and opened the class door.  The scene that greeted me was my worst nightmare come true.  I was greeted by the face of *Ellen Smith!  In sheer panic I nearly ran out the door.  How could that be?  She was my 11th grade AP English teacher.  And she did NOT like me.

Okay, so it really wasn’t Ms. Smith.  But my wonderful professor, Rosemary Roberts, resembled her.  It had been over 15 years since I joyfully finished my last class in junior English.  And honestly, I don’t remember thinking that much about the class once it was over.  But every emotion that I experienced years before came flooding back at warp speed.  Papers were returned covered in red ink.  Biting remarks and belittling were the norm in that class.  I honestly don’t know why this particular teacher disliked me so much.  And whether or not I deserved the treatment I received isn’t the point.

Both women have a gift for understanding the English language.  Both women are teachers.  And both women have similar features.  But they had one huge difference – the way they went about their jobs.  One inspired and encouraged while the other criticized and intimidated.  One was pleasant, the other was crotchety.  One I feared, the other I respected.

It’s no surprise that I performed much better for the teacher who inspired me.  So that leads me to examine myself.  How do I deal with those around me?  My husband, my children, my friends and family; do I inspire or intimidate?  Am I pleasant or grouchy?  In all honesty I am both.

I think everyone has the ability to be both.  It’s easy to casually spew criticism, blanketing those around us with seeds of self-doubt.  But is it realistic to expect that anyone can always be …well, nice?  It’s hard to live between the two extremes, balancing honesty with encouragement.  No matter how hard, I will continue to try.  More encouragement, less criticism.  More inspiration, less demand.  More smiling, less scowling.  After all, I would hate for someone to run shrieking in terror because they saw someone who looked like me.

*Name changed to protect the grumpy.