I am not sure how many people were in the room exactly but it was a lot, more than had been anticipated by the family. Dozens of people were standing behind those seated all the way to the back of the room.
The occasion was the Celebration of Life for Roger Andrew Stanbridge, or as I knew him, Stanners. He was my secondary school headmaster and he was an absolute legend. All of the girls at our school loved him. The fact that so many ex-students, teachers past and present, family and friends were all there to celebrate his life is testament to that.
It was over thirty years ago now since I left school under his expert guidance and yet during the beautiful service in the moments we were given to reflect, I was instantly transported to that period of my life. Memories of him teaching us chemistry flooding back as though it was just yesterday. His assemblies were always brilliant, inspiring, witty and engaging. Stanners knew exactly how to hold our attention. He managed all 400 girls aged 11-18 effortlessly. As my school friend, Janette, said to me after the service, he knew us better than we even knew ourselves.
Just before the service started I spoke with my favourite art teacher, Mrs Jones. She said that Stanners had always said yes to everything she had proposed that she had wanted to explore with us, even if that meant taking her art classes out into the field. Yes, Stanners was a man of science however he truly believed creativity was just as important for our development.
Teachers influence. They are so important and at the time I am not sure I appreciated just how much they would influence my future. At the service, I had the privilege to thank Mrs Jones for her time and the many gifts of wisdom she gave me over the seven years. The advice she gave me aged 11 to have courage with conviction still sits within me today and I told her so.
Sometimes you see the direct influence someone has on you. Other times it happens in the background and it is only when you reflect that you realise just how influential a person can be on your life. I spent the rest of the afternoon speaking to many teachers who I had not seen for three decades and I now see just how influential the time I spent with them was. How much those years have influenced who I am today. How much I learned and took on board as I live, breathe and think in many of those ways today.
Sadly, I didn’t get the chance to thank Stanners personally for who he was and what he did for me, for all of us, and I am genuinely very sorry for that. However what I believe in my heart is that Stanners knew we were grateful for his gentle guidance. He knew his purpose and how he had a positive influence on us and the fact that the room was full for his Celebration of Life revealed just how this influence knew no bounds.
Thank you, Stanners! You’d be thrilled to know we raised a glass to you in your favourite pub after the service!
Be mindful of the time you spend with others. Your words matter. Your actions matter. Your leadership matters. You don’t need to be a teacher to teach. Impressions may last a lifetime but influence lasts for generations. Your influence is your legacy.
Focus on Influence!
ACTION POINT - How will your influence on others leave a beautiful legacy?