Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Power in You: Teachers Influence in Students’ Lives

It’s that time of the year: Back to School after a lengthy summer vacation. Teachers truly appreciate well-deserved time off to pursue personal interests, hobbies, and other personal goals. Vacation spots are a treasure and having free time is a precious commodity. I love summer time. It is a time to slow down and recharge. There is a certain sadness when summer time is over. I love being a teacher but it is a very demanding and sacrificial profession with very little personal time.This summer I had a chance to reflect upon my career as an educator and what impact it has on my life and the lives of others. I received a call from a student that reaffirms what teachers do and why they do it: because it matters!

I taught English as a Second Language to this Spanish speaking student more than 10 years ago. At that time, she was well into her 70’s. It was a pleasure to see her come to class, sit there while paying close attention to instruction, and being happy by being able to say: “Hi, my name is Maria”. It was a great accomplishment for her to say her name and age in English. I treated her kindly. She was sweet. I knew she was in class to be with her daughter and to get some companionship.

Fast-forward 10 years. I got a call from a woman asking for me in Spanish. After wrestling with my memories I identified who was on the phone: “Mrs. Mari, how are you, so pleased to hear your voice” I said.  We started talking and bringing back the memories. And then there it was, a few words that made me tear up and choke up on the phone: “Mrs. Castillo, I truly liked being in your class. You saw me for who I truly was. You looked at me with eyes of love”. Wow, what a great testimony to the power of kind words: I will remember her kind words. It was pay-it forward time. “You look at me with eyes of love”

My words of encouragement to veteran and new teachers is that what you do is important and it matters. As school resumes this fall, please remember:

The Power of Kind Words
You never know the impact that your words will have on a student. Make a commitment to lift students up and see them for who they truly are. Many of our students lack affection, positive encouragement, a role model, or an adult that cares.

The Power of Listening
It is ok to take time to slow down to listen to students’ concerns and for teachers to take time to stop teaching content to teach life lessons. What you say at the right time in the right place can affect a student’s future.

The Power of Caring
Students may hardly remember what you taught but they will never forget how much you cared. Assume best intentions, teach with a giving, caring, and forgiving heart. Even in the worst days, when students turn your life upside down, give them the benefit of the doubt. Offer them a clean slate the next day. In this day and age of internet access, no one needs to sit in a classroom and interact with people. Knowledge is readily available. Use the power in you and the great opportunity you have of influencing a real person’s live.

The Power of Love
Look at students with eyes of love. They needed it. I attended a Better Together California Teachers Summit and the keynote speakers highlighted how teachers influenced their lives. I listened to a famous actress and singer as well as an astronaut. They are who they are today because along the way, a teacher said a kind word, listened, cared, and loved. This is the power in you. Teach… and transform a life.

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