Lee  Culpepper

Students would have never guessed how God would use Shrek to strengthen my relationship with them.

The Monday before Thanksgiving, Shrek was alive and happy. His day began with a walk through the woods and around a pond that we called his swamp. Strangers always recognized how the green-cartoon ogre had inspired his name.

God’s Shrek was a happy and handsome English bulldog -- well, Shrek thought of himself as handsome anyway. His massive chest, narrow keister, and chubby-round head truly brought the cartoon ogre to life.

As God has a plan for everything, the relationship between a man and his dog is fascinating. I would have never imagined, however, that God would choose a 57-pound, white English bulldog to teach me so much about the value of patience and composed leadership.

As a former wrestler and Marine, I understood how controlled aggression, as well as an austere demeanor, could serve as an asset in certain situations. Even as a high school English teacher, those qualities proved useful when reprimanding a student lacking self-discipline or respect for authority. However, in dealing with a strong-headed English bulldog, an aggressive nature served only to exacerbate conflicts involving Shrek’s incredibly stubborn determination.

Through trial and error, I eventually discovered that a quiet and austere character could always defuse Shrek’s worst acts of defiance. But by failing to control my frustration or anger, I exposed a weakness. This little bulldog instinctively recognized my failing, and he would become embolden to behave even worse than when the confrontation began. A bulldog’s tenacity is something to admire, but it will certainly test any human being’s resolve and character.

Surprisingly, working with Shrek furthered my development as a leader and a teacher. Shrek enforced a dog’s lesson about leadership that most importantly applies to people: we do not follow someone else because we like that person; we are compelled to follow someone because we truly respect and admire him. Our conduct is what commands respect. Losing our self-control is a guaranteed way to lose the respect of those who depend on us.

When it comes to teenagers, they usually deny it, but they are yearning for leadership. They need someone to inspire them in tackling goals they ordinarily would not attempt on their own. And leaders are obligated to providing that inspiration. Shrek made me a better leader, as he required tremendous patience. He would not behave himself without a composed, confident influence. My students responded well to the same approach.


Lee Culpepper

Lee Culpepper is a recovering high school English teacher and former Marine. He currently teaches firearm courses and has resumed his passion for writing.