As St. Lucia celebrates its National Day , Mags Magazine and Gems of Saint Lucia would like to recognize the contribution of Mrs. Peternise Stephens, from the town of Vieux-Fort, towards education and shaping the lives of thousands of students as a secondary school teacher, a school principal and a community leader.
“Don’t pick a job. Pick a Boss. Your first boss is the biggest factor in your career success. A boss who doesn’t trust you won’t give you opportunities to grow.” ~William Raduchel.
I first read this quote a few months ago. I posted it on LinkedIn and many people wrote to me and asked, “How do you choose a first boss?” The boss is the one who chooses you. This is true – of course when you apply for a job, you are not the one making decision to hire. However, the quote got me thinking about my career path and whether of not my first boss was the biggest factor in my career success. I will say yes!
My first boss was a woman whom I already had great admiration for. She was my Math teacher while I was in secondary school and I loved Math simply because she taught Math in a simple and uncomplicated manner. She gave all of the students individual attention to help them. She was kind and gentle with a great sense of humour and her ability to discipline and love at the same time were a rare combination of qualities, which I have found in very few individuals. One of my most memorable times with her in secondary school, was of her writing my name in my Math text book. We all covered our text books in brown paper to protect the cover of the book. At the beginning of the school year, she would sit at her desk and write the name of each student in their book and also have a bit of a light, jovial conversation. This was a little ritual for her but for me I thought it was a special blessing coming from her that made me feel I was important enough for her to take the time to write my name in my book. In fact, she is the only person whom I know, who has ever done this!
At the age of sixteen, I was offered the opportunity to teach at the Vieux-Fort Primary School, in our local town. By that time, she had switched careers from being a teacher to a school principal. I was thrilled that she was my school principal. The years which I spent working with her were all very delightful years.
What was it about her, as a first boss that was big factor in my career success?
a) I was fortunate to have a person as a boss, whom I already had great admiration for. I did not need to buy into her leadership. As a teacher, she commanded respect by her actions both in the school and in the community. She made us feel loved, special, capable of achieving and showed us great respect.
b) On my first day at work, she welcomed me, took me around the school and had a great conversation about teaching and the wonderful teachers and students she worked with. She made her team feel so special that I felt even more special and lucky to be a part of it.
c) She complimented my efforts at teaching. I loved my students. I loved teaching. She would stand next to my class and observe how I taught my students and would make comments like, “You are so natural at teaching”. “You do the right things, even though you are very new at this work.” “Your students respond so well to you.” The more she praised me for my work, the more I was inspired to be a great teacher. During the day I taught in the classroom and in the evenings, I made teaching aids to support my students.
d) She allowed me to grow, develop my own style of teaching and built on my natural strengths. There were always opportunities to learn from her through conversations and meetings as she sought to make the teaching learning environment a special place for all of us. Drama, music and sports were very prominent activities at the school and she matched teachers to these areas based on their passions. She noted my interest in drama and poetry very early and engaged me with those activities. She also noted my interest in children who had difficulty in learning and assigned those classes to me. The children thrived under my care. One of my greatest life lessons from working with children who have difficulty in learning, is that when the right environment is provided and a teacher believes in her students – students can achieve beyond their limitations.
e) She provided the space for creativity. As a naturally creative person, I thrive on implementing new ideas. As a young teacher, she always gave me that space to be creative in the classroom.
f) She trusted me and had confidence in me. I was not a perfect person but her trust in me established a sense of responsibility and a desire to protect that trust.
Since then, I have changed jobs, changed cities, changed countries and most of all, changed bosses. The interesting thing I have discovered is that all my bosses have very similar qualities and I feel very fortunate to have had such amazing bosses. They are not just managers or supervisors – they are leaders! They inspire greatness and each one has given me the freedom, flexibility and space to develop my talent and to contribute greatly to the workplace. They all trust me and leave a wide door for me to go as far as I can go.
From one angle, I may not have chosen my bosses but I believe that perhaps, just perhaps, the choosing perhaps happened long before I was chosen for the jobs. I believe that what shows up in our lives, is a reflection of what goes on in our internal lives. My inner world is filled with ideas, possibilities, creativity, the desire to inspire and to grow… maybe this is why I have attracted bosses with similar alignment.
What are your thoughts on your first boss?
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More amazing St. Lucians who have been featured on my blog:
Mr. Thomas Boulogne who recently retired from Sir Arthur Lewis Community College
Dr. Gilbertha St. Rose a pioneer in the study of natural herbal medicine.
Martina and Marshall Charlery who have gotten our young athletes on the world stage.
Mrs. Magdalena Louis a retired school principal from Augier, Laborie
Hedwick Holder, Jaimanne Leopold and Tarrah Mauricette who have teamed together to create an amazing group called Chalè in Ottawa. Chalè is a creole word meaning heat, derived from our St. Lucian creole background
Our initiative to support families who were affected by the flooding in Saint Lucia in 2014.