Do you truly acknowledge the level of influence in your hands? I mean, do you realize the impact you have as an educator into the individual lives you touch? More than most careers, everything you say and do in the classroom matters tremendously.
If you teach in a suburban lower socioeconomic setting, then you truly grasp the depths of what I’m talking about. Your influence knows no boundaries! The students study every word you have to say and every word you don’t. They examine your every move and nuance. Everything about YOU matters to them. I’m sure you’re aware, but it’s time you REALLY take it in, like cold water to the face.
It should weigh on you for a moment…the responsibility!! You’re more important than you ever thought. Your work matters more than you’ve ever really imagined.
You might’ve been aware of this already OR you may see the total opposite: students who couldn’t care less what you do or say. If you’re the latter, then you’re likely disconcerted, beat down, exhausted, numb…on the edge of a nervous breakdown. But if you really are at that place, you have to examine what put you there in the first place and what can be done about it. SOMETHING has to be done! You see the students didn’t choose you and they hold no blame. They were just told one day they had to show up to your classroom no matter what! They deserve the most nurturing and quality education possible! Ask yourself if you’re the right person to deliver it and if you’re in your best condition to do so. It’s imperative you solve your problems or get out of the way. There’s a lot at stake!
What’s at stake? The youngest of 5 girls in a single parent family arrives in your 3rd grade classroom not yet grasping all vowel sounds. Her mother works two jobs and her oldest has already dropped out of high school to help with living expenses. Her mother can’t make it to parent conferences and the child already seems disillusioned with it all. This story isn’t new…in fact it’s very common. To this child, your difficulties and stressors are irrelevant to their struggles, and frankly they have no place in the life of the child. To this child, you are the person who will be a source of strength and support. You are the person that will provide a warm and safe climate. Their academic path or lack thereof may be defined by YOU!
What makes you not always remember this? What makes it overbearing at times? The day-to-day hardships, obstacles and disappointments are far too common and there seem so many around who lose sight of their aim. You keep hearing mottos such as “children first” but in reality it’s just politics and egos first. Sometimes, you might feel as if you just need to keep your head down and “do the best” you can. But you may forget how powerful you are. Remember that influence you have? Use it to your benefit! Empower your students and community and through that, you will have empowered yourself.
Regardless of their title or position, there’s no one in the world that knows your student academically as well as you. As such, you hold a lot of responsibility in your hands. Use that influence to do good in the world and give 100%. If you cannot do so, gracefully make your way to a world where you can do the most good. For the benefit of the future let’s hope that place is the classroom!
It’s all about the attitude and the perspective. Sometimes extraneous circumstances push us away from what we most hold dear. Sometimes it seems rational to reassess, but the answer should NEVER be to shut down and continue as a mindless, helpless drone. There is too much at stake!
Your duty is to welcome your students as they are…to understand them, struggle with them, guide them and present them with opportunities. Above all, provide an education free from prejudice and loaded with a healthy sense of optimism for their future.
You’re powerful. Own that!
Oscar Cielos Staton began his teaching career in 1998 while continuing his passion for film production in Texas. He quickly developed an affinity for working with low socioeconomic Hispanic families. “The lives of my students,” he says “very much mirror the life I once had as an immigrant in this country in a public elementary school. Actually, I tell them they are lucky because they have other students similar to them in the same classroom. My experience was that of a true minority in the classroom. Only one other student in my class spoke Spanish!” As a teacher, he established himself as someone in touch with the student experience. Nowadays Oscar continues his educational journey with the Teach Cow Network and his podcast Teachers Talk Live, which brings together teachers from all over the world for talks on K-12 Education.