Several educators were gathered around a patio table yesterday evening, and the discussion turned to the opportunity teachers have to save lives. A couple of the men were in their twenties, filled with enthusiasm, eager to change the world. As the educational veteran, I was asked to relate stories of students whose lives I may have influenced.
This got me to thinking.
A student will occasionally return to tell a favorite teacher thank you, and remind them of something that was said or done that helped smooth the way, or even changed the course of their life.
As teachers we like that. Those are the props that make our job worthwhile.
What we don't like to think about are the students lives we may have impacted negatively.
The angry tone, the mean-spirited criticism, a thoughtless remark taken to heart. All of these things can turn a child off. Make them hate school.
Rarely will a kid who was a promising athlete return to tell a coach that his name-calling made the student leave the sport. Less likely will a student seek out the English teacher whose harsh critique of a poem discouraged her from ever writing poetry again. I have numerous friends who will not sing, because an elementary music teacher told them to just mouth the words to a song during a school concert.
Most of us can recall a teacher who made us want to quit.
As teachers we are in a position to change lives. We need to take our responsibilities very seriously. We must always remember that as much as we are in a position to help, we are also in a position to hurt.