A few years back I (Carol writing here) sat down with my academic dean for a cup of coffee. We are friends and thus we often chat about life. About our kids. About students. And about publishing and theories and what great recipes we’ve tried lately. The conversation that day turned to teaching, of course. We teachers can’t help ourselves but to muse about how to be better, brighter and grade more essays in shorter periods of time. Something my friend/dean/colleague Tom said that day stuck with me. I actually wrote it on a sticky note and secured it right next to my office computer on a steel file-folder-organizer-thingy. It has remained there for a good 4+ years now. In three memorable phrases he smartly summarized what distinguishes the creme de la creme teachers from all the rest.

The best of the best professors …

1. are passionate.
2. are clear.
3. want their students to succeed.

It dawned on me yesterday as the sticky note caught my gaze once again: Maybe these are the same “secrets” of the happy couple masters? Of the creme de la creme relationship partners? Of the people who seem to really find deep gladness and awesome giddiness in one another, year after year. Of those darn happy couples most of us yearn to become.

1. Passion. (Gosh darn it, let’s be happy! Let’s do things to keep us connected. Strong. Repaired. In “like” with one another, even when the economy plummets, the children are melting, and the laundry is piling up).

2. Clarity. (Of vision. Of purpose. We do whatever it takes to remember, time and again, that “we” come first. And that “we” stay happy. And that “we” keep our priorities straight. Before jobs and kids and cars and mortgages. WE matter, yes we do!).

3. Holding up the other. (Does your partner – the other part of your team – really know, deep in her/his heart, you want her/him to succeed? That he is smart? That she is valued? That you are open to his smart influence? That she will be listened to?)

Thanks, Dean Connery, for your wisdom. You never cease to impress and amaze (dude). Let’s grab a cup of coffee soon, eh?