It was mid-term, seventh grade. I was in my home economics class and we had just finished ironing stencils on aprons. On that particular day we had a substitute. When the bell rang, the classroom emptied faster than I’d ever seen it, and before cleaning up the stencils, ironing boards and irons.

Being the ever-dutiful redhead, I stayed back to clean it all up, feeling a bit bad for the substitute who had been pretty abused the entire 45 minutes by a few of our more interesting students.

F2W LESSON #3: Not everything is as it appears.

Before accusing someone of something, take a step back, take a breath, and take a moment to figure out what really happened. (OR….When the bell rings, get out of there! Or grab a witness.)

The ironing boards were at the rear of the home economics room – which was larger than a normal school room – and I quickly finished straightening up and headed for the door to get to my next class before the bell rang. As I was making my dash to avoid a tardy slip, I heard the substitute call for me: “JEAN!! STOP RIGHT THERE!!”

I blinked, turned and stopped. (What in the world was going on?)

“JEAN, DID YOU IRON THESE STENCILS ON THE IRONING BOARD COVER?” fumed the substitute. I wasn’t sure what stencils she was talking about but I knew I had not ironed any stencils on anything but my apron.

“No, I didn’t.”


“To help you clean up.”


I blinked. I was a straight A student, with absolutely NO behavior problems. And I hadn’t ironed the stencils on the ironing board cover. My REAL teacher would know this! (Again, what in the world was going on?)

I followed her to the Vice Principal’s office (who was rather surprised to see me), he called my parents, they came in and we all talked about what had happened. In the end, it was my word (a freckled 13-year old) against the substitute) and I lost! I couldn’t believe it. They believed her, even though she was wrong. I received a 1/2 day suspension and the wrath of my parents.

To this day, I am baffled by the whole thing. It was humiliating and so infuriating.

No one believed me, but I was telling the truth.

And it doesn’t matter if you’re 13 or 93, when someone doesn’t believe you and you’re telling the truth, it’s confusing, frustrating  and difficult to understand. What is their motive? Why you? Why me? Why now?

So, let’s be cautious before making judgements. It’s much easier to look ahead and focus on what’s there, then to look back and wonder how you missed it.

Effective leaders do a lot of listening before making a decision.

And they ask questions to help verify information, consider all circumstances, personalities, motivations…we’ll talk more about this in a later post. But they always listen.

Never forget to listen. Or to leave when the bell rings.

And always have a witness. Seriously.

Jean Krisle, affectionately known to many in the addiction treatment industry as “The Godmother of Recovery”, is the CEO/Founder of 10,000 Beds, Inc. a 501c3 nonprofit organization. The mission of 10,000 Beds is to connect those seeking help for addiction to those who are willing to help by providing addiction treatment scholarships.

Jean and her husband Hal are currently #OnTheRoad4Recovery to elevate awareness, change perceptions of recovery, and connect with partners new and old.

You can reach Jean at to schedule a speaking engagement, invite Jean & BigBlue to an event, or with questions. A professional motivational speaker and coach, Jean engages audiences to provide inspiration for leaders, clients, teams and organizations. She focuses on leadership, the shattered glass ceiling, and effective communication. Her Keynote Presentation “Failing to Win” shares personal stories and experiences using relevant data to create a strong call to action for her audience, challenging them to push themselves a little harder and reach a little higher. 

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