In my classroom I desire, more than anything, for my students to walk out the door a better person than when they walked in. Not just to FEEL better about themselves; but to truly BE a better person. This requires a lot of extra "work" but it's absolutely worth it. I have been in education for seven years and I think of this role in my students' lives often. Whether we like it or not (and for the record, I do) we have an opportunity to have a significant influence on who they become. That being said, there is much more to our job as educators than teaching the curriculum. Yes, teaching the TEKS (these are what guide education in TX for any "outsiders" who may read this) is what we are hired to do but that's only part of our responsibility.
The way we treat them.
The way we respect them.
The way we carry ourselves.
The manner in which we greet them at the door.
Do we ask them questions about their lives?
Do we allow them into ours?
Do we follow through?
Do we go that extra mile to attend their events and let them know we really do care...or is it all just hot air?
All of these things affect how our influence plays out in our students' lives. They are, oftentimes, more perceptive than we give them credit for. They know who the fakers are and they desire transparency/authenticity in everything, especially from those they trust.
This fact has caused me to reflect recently on the level of influence I have on my students. I think it boils down to this:
The best educators don't just know their students. They allow themselves to be known.
By allowing ourselves to be known, we're building trust. Our students see that we're real people. We have successes. We also have failures. We experience victories. We also experience struggles. We make good decisions. We also make poor ones. Through this authenticity, we are earning the right to influence. If we really want our students to learn from us and be influenced by us, we need to build trust. Here are a few ways that I've learned (mostly from educators better than me) to do that:
Attend their extracurricular events.
Share your life.
Talk about your family.
Hold them to high standards.
Do what you say you're going to do.
Give SPECIFIC praise (generic praise is as good as false praise).
How are you earning the right to influence? I'd love to learn from you! Follow and tweet me at @bclarksontx. Until next time...
Brent Clarkson, M.Ed.