Although we discussed many subjects, many of the conversations were about our former teachers. We laughed at classroom episodes from the past, but many of my classmates made sincere and heartfelt comments about the influence of particular teachers on their lives. Some referenced elementary teachers, and others about junior high and high school "tough but fair" teachers. We mentioned favorites as well as influencers, and I mentioned that I became a teacher because of the many great teachers who influenced my love of learning. I am happy to share that many of my former classmates also became teachers. The point is this-my classmates and I are 62 years old, and we still think about our teacher influencers. (What about you? Does this post force you to reflect on a teacher influencer?)
Since my past career involves being an English teacher for 37 years, I am wondering- does my name come up in any conversations at reunions? I hope so. And today's teachers who are reading this right now - YOU are the current influencers and YOU will be the future topics of conversation at class reunions far from today. More importantly, you are the ones shaping young people and sharing life lessons every day. What you say and the way you act sends messages to your students every minute of every day.
In my heart, I do not think there is any job that is more important than teaching. We, as teachers, have the ability to make or break lives and minds which are entrusted to us. We have a choice to treat others with respect and dignity, or to demean. We can choose to praise and encourage, or we can choose to devalue. We can choose to be kind and understanding, or we can choose to degrade. We will be remembered for our actions long after we are dead, and our influence will never stop, because others will teach what we have taught. Teaching is a serious responsibility; shaping lives is not for the faint of heart.
Perhaps you have seen this quote from Hiam Ginott, from his book BETWEEN PARENT AND CHILD. This quote perfectly explains not only my feelings, but also my philosophy of teaching:
“I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.”― Haim G. Ginott
Although students can sometimes be challenging and difficult, remember that it is ultimately YOUR choice as the teacher that will determine the outcome for the student and the outlook of the student. Choose wisely. People will remember long after you are gone, and your influence will live on.
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