The yellow post-it (written in pencil by the Harvard Professor.)

I have realized that having a post is like telling your life in chapters. Yes, the best ideas come from real experiences. So today I would like to tell you something that happened to me when I was attending classes at Harvard University. One of my greatest experiences ever is related to teaching.

A good teacher is a gift for her students. And a very good professor gave me the best present ever.

Continuous education is the greatest thing ever invented for teachers. Besides the knowledge, it gives you an excellent perspective of what it is like to be “on the other side”. I enjoy always taking classes because I learn not only the content but the procedure the teacher uses to bring his/her knowledge to class. And at Harvard I had that amazing real life experience from which I learnt so much.

Midterm at Strategic Management class. We, the students, have just handed in our assignments when the professor starts to hand out small yellow post-its folded in two. “Do not open it yet. This is your grade” he said. “Our grade?” Most of us thought. “How can this be? We have just handed in our assignments.” And the teacher continued, “This is your grade related to your participation in class. It is written in pencil” And truly, my name was written in pencil on the upper face of the folded post-it. “It is written in pencil- he continued- because it is midterm, and there is still a lot of time until the end of term, so anyone can improve her/his grade. Anyone can reach the higher ratings; there will be time for all to participate in class. Now you can open it”
Total silence as we read our yellow post -its. At the end of the class we were all sharing our grades and asking our friends to help us improve the temporal qualification in pencil that was neither more nor less than 40% of the final grade and making mental notes of how to increase our contribution in class debates.

Joseph W. Chevarley was that amazing teacher. Of course this is only a very small anecdote of all the things I learnt from him, not only Strategy but care of his students, the use of cases, the distribution of the time in class and team work. And for sure he doesn’t know any of this. He was just giving the best of himself to us, his students. He was just teaching Strategic Management to another group of students.

The lesson learnt from the yellow post-it? Whenever there is someone who believes in you, in your capacity of improving, in your capacity of success, you will release all your energy to achieve it. But this is not all. With faith in the student’s skills, feedback must be given. In the learning process real feedback is needed as much as confidence. Here is an example:
– “Now, you are this”; grade, real grade, as tough as it can be, the one you have earned with your work;
– “but I really believe that you can do it better”; grade written in pencil that can be erased and a higher grade can be written:
– “it depends on you.”

Feedback is the reason for teachers to exist.

Otherwise, the learning process could be done using books or the information on Internet. Precisely because students are learning, there must be a margin for mistakes.
For the student, the subordinate, the employee to rectify, there is a need to tell them where the mistake is. They all need to receive a post -it note written in pencil .
Oh! Those parents who do not correct their children so as not to disappoint them; Woe to those leaders who only release monumental anger saying “This is dreadful! And do not explain where the mistake is and what was expected of that work.
Meanwhile those teachers, who give credit and feedback to their students, are not only giving them wings, they are giving them self-confidence and a light for further improvement.
Rita Pierson explains it in his talk: “Every child needs a champion”

There are no shortcuts to learning. A teacher always has to work hard: to know the subject in depth, to know his/her students, to know teaching techniques available for such materials and also to believe and give credit to his/her students: to give feedback in pencil
As the Beatles said: “you can learn how to be you in time; it’s easy: All you need is love”




One response to “The yellow post-it (written in pencil by the Harvard Professor.)”

  1. Dr.M.R.R. PRASAD Avatar

    Wonderful tips which are very relevant to the present global situation with respect to teaching standards and methodologies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *