International Festival of Attention-Grabbers – Lebanon

Hi and welcome back to Attention-ology for K – 5 Teachers!

A father for a teacher? Absolutely. Just ask Toufic (Tom) Chebib, shown in my blog pic below.

Toufic (Tom) Chebib in a comfortable corner of his Aladdin’s Eatery.

Tom celebrated Father’s Day yesterday in the US remembering his childhood and teen years with his own dad in Beirut, Lebanon. “My dad was my first teacher,” recalls Tom. “He was first to influence me in a very positive way; my dad was a protective, wise man, very peaceful.” “I admire him a lot,” Tom notes. “He barely finished high school yet eventually became a district manager in one of Lebanon’s largest banks.” “My dad’s retired now,” continues Tom, “but he stays active building villas.”

Tom’s description of his father comes easily – a testimony to the major role that his dad, like fathers in every corner of the world, play in their children’s lives.

To listen to Tom describe his early years is to gain a lesson in the history of his native country. “Our family originally comes from Falougha, Mount Lebanon,” he explains. Falougha is famous throughout and even beyond the Middle East for being home to the first water bottling factory in the Middle East. “Many people are surprised to learn that delicious spring water comes from the rocks near Mount Lebanon,” observes Tom.

“The land is sacred in Lebanon,” Tom asserts. “Lebanese people love the land more than themselves.” But, education is important as well. “Mom wanted my brother and sister and me to be well-educated, well-mannered, and beyond the influence of bad politics,” Tom recalls. “I went to a very conservative Catholic School run by nuns that provided an interesting combination of teachers. Faculty members ranged from some that were very strict to others that were free thinking and outgoing.”

Tom’s recollection of his elementary school teachers comes less quickly than early memories of his father, but he recalls those who knew how to catch and keep students’ attention, including Mrs. Arzeh in grades 3 – 6. Arzeh means cedar in the Lebanese dialect of Arabic,” explains Tom, noting also that a

Young Tom Chebib participating in a nursery (pre-K) program

cedar tree is on the Lebanese flag, as shown in the blog pic here of Tom (standing at left) in nursery (pre-K) school – well before his third – sixth grade years.

Offering another fascinating historical tidbit, Tom proudly tells that the first ships of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs were built of Lebanese cedar.

“Mrs. Arzeh taught me Arabic Literature. Her two kids were in my class and she also taught us Catechism and served as our Choir Teacher.”

What attention-ology tools and tricks did Mrs. Arzeh employ? “She was visually commanding,” Tom remembers, describing her as a well-dressed and “proper” lady. Mrs. Arzeh taught from the heart,” says Tom. “She and all of my best teachers put heart and soul into lessons taught with sincerity and authenticity. They had a very strong sense of pride in themselves and in my ‘sponge years’, I absorbed their pride and made it my own.”

“Still to this day,” Tom reflects on his current status as a successful restaurant owner and manager, “when I want to feel good and better about myself I get dressed up.” “Dressing for success boosts my confidence and morale and I’ve noticed that my appearance serves as a model for my employees (read students).”

“Now that I think about it,” continues Tom, “leaders, including teachers, throughout history have commanded attention (and wielded power) in part by wearing distinguishing clothes.”  Tom cites an example from his native country’s history, explaining that as far back as the Turkish Empire, dress codes and fashion have been highly regarded in Lebanon. “My dad wore a suit to the bank everyday.”

Do you suppose that Tom, even at age two, was taking a photo of his dad and mom, who provided the blog pic below? “Thanks Mom!”

“Smile for the camera!”

As a very young child Tom was already making memories that he graciously shares as an adult.

Some of the “teachable moments” his father used so wisely are ones that Tom passes on to his employees today. “I encourage everyone that works with me to keep a positive attitude, says Tom, “and I continuously try to make them feel cared for, the way my father, mother and my best teachers made me feel.”

One of the  strongest recollections Tom has of his father is the advice his dad gave him on what to do everyday before bedtime. He encouraged Tom to ask four questions:

  1. What did I do today?
  2. What can I do to make it better?
  3. Who did I influence today?
  4. How can I improve my positive influence?

Tom has kept his father’s advice. He first journeyed from Lebanon to the US, living with his aunt and uncle in Cleveland, Ohio in the early ’90s. Tom graduated from Cleveland State University with an engineering degree and began his Masters studies as a working engineer before finding himself drawn into the family’s now multi-state restaurant business.

Skilled at communications, management, and of course, cooking, Tom and his family now own a total of thirty restaurants serving popular Lebanese dishes. No doubt, Tom has made his father and mother proud. He’s a well-educated, well-mannered businessman and not involved in what his mother calls “the bad things of politics.”

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in (business and all other) instructional settings! Please send me your magical attention-grabbers; I’d like to share them with readers now in 78 countries around the world.

Talk with you next week,

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet

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