I’m a Good Guy

Have you heard of the good cop/bad cop approach to negotiation?

It can also be applied to teaching. I’ve seen it. I’ve been the good guy.

The bad guy was one of my earliest mentors, a colleague named Phil.

Phil was amazing. When I needed some help at the start of my career, Phil was there to help me become a better teacher. He was like an uncle to me… older, patient, understanding. Phil cared about my success. He pushed me out of my comfort zone. And we shared a lot of laughs.

But in the classroom….

Let’s just say that Phil was the teacher you hated when he was yelling at you, two inches from your face.

And the teacher you loved once you got out into the real world. And you realized that Phil was pushing you. Stretching you. Teaching you. And you learned from Phil.

And me?

I was the good guy.

I was there to console the crying student and let them know that everything will be okay, and that they had two days to get their act together and come back strong for the next meeting.

That was several years ago. Phil passed away not long ago and I think about him all the time.

Recently, I was preparing my class for their final presentations to our client, and things were not going well. It was bad. It was “ask the client to not bother showing up, I’ll just give you the summary” level bad.

What would Phil do?

Well hold on a second.

Reality has changed since the days when Phil and I worked together.

Would yelling even work?

And even if it did, would I be able to do it?

Yes, I thought. This group needs to be yelled at, and I have to be the teacher that you hate when I’m yelling at you, and that you’ll love once you got out into the real world.

I’m going to yell.

So at our meeting before the final presentations, I’m channeling my inner Phil.

But you know who came out?


I was the good guy.

Because things are different and difficult these days. Reality has changed.

And I just couldn’t act like someone I’m not.

And guess what…

It worked.

The presentations were strong. Some were fantastic.

Oscar Wilde said “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”

He also said “one has to be courageous enough to say what one really thinks.”

And say it as yourself. Not as someone else.

I hope Phil would approve.

What do you think?