Guest blog by Stephanie Bonneau, who is the Advanced Academic Assistant Principal in Juan Seguin High School, Arlington Texas.
In classrooms across our state there are countdowns of various types: prom, STAAR tests, AP tests, graduation, the last day of school, the teacher’s birthday. In reality, we have a fixed number of days to impact a student’s life. The whole year is a countdown of these days. Think back to your school days. What teachers stand out the most? Was their influence positive or negative? Do you think that when they taught you they realized you’d recall their words for years to come?
We have power.
The power to build a better future for our youth and ourselves. The power to use our words and influence to better a child or to remind him of his failures. The power to support a student through difficult times, and the power to create a difficult time that requires a student to seek support.
Often we fail to realize our power, our influence, and get discouraged. Spring comes on and it seems no one is listening anymore. The truth is, they are ALL listening closely when they care about what we say. They’re attentive to our moods, attitudes, and body language – sometimes more than our words. These things set the tone of the room for the day because we have power.
The two teacher experiences I remember most are from 5th grade and freshman year. In 5th grade experience did not build me up – it did just the opposite. It set my mind to believing I would never read as well as other students. My freshman year I had an English teacher that chose my opening paragraph to read as an example to all her classes. I still remember how proud I felt and how she acted like it was no big deal. To me, it was huge.
As a teacher, I never thought about the power I wielded in the small day to day classroom activities. I only thought big-picture. For example, I knew they needed to know how to write a research paper and cite sources before leaving for college. In my mind, that was a difference I could make. You know, never once has a former student stopped me at Target and said they still remembered my amazing research paper lessons – not once. I have been stopped by former students juggling their children and grocery cart, but they talk about discussions they remember, comments that were made, topic discussed, and sometimes books we read. I’ve had a couple tell me that even years after my class they still talk about it with their friends when they get together. I fight off tears every time. I had no idea. I had power.
Our approach to countdowns is powerful too. Do we countdown to summer with glee and tell the students they only have 47 days until their free? Or do we countdown to the last day with trepidation, hoping we’ve imparted everything we can to them? That we have used our power, our influence, to make a difference with every student?
As Spring marches into Summer and the days tick away, please remember, the most influential person in the room is you. You set the tone. You make the difference. It’s you they will remember. Use the power wisely.