We all possess a little bit of power to sway another person’s beliefs, attitudes and actions. Most likely, we can all remember the name of at least one individual who influenced us as children, as well as someone who is a strong influence in our present lives. In a way then, whether we’d like to admit to it or not, all of us have some responsibility of upholding a certain standard of behavior, one that is worthy of being admired, respected and imitated.
Those Who Notice
It is a privilege to be a teacher. Parents entrust their children into my care for one hundred eighty days out of the year. They trust that I will nurture as well as train their children. They are confident I will teach their children not just the basics such as reading, writing and arithmetic, but that I will also uphold similar standards of behavior as they do. Every parent I’ve ever met wants their children to be respectful, honest and kind, and so do I. But to teach such behaviors, they first have to reside in me. I cannot hold a student accountable to any standard that I myself do not possess. If I ask for respect, they need to see that I am respectful. If I require honesty, then I need to show honesty. If I am not kind, then I cannot expect my students to be kind either.
At the end of each year, I am formally evaluated by my principal, but more important to me are those informal evaluations given by parents and children in the form of handwritten notes on thank you cards or on paper haphazardly torn from a notebook. These personal notes speak more loudly, encourage my heart more deeply and reveal the level of my influence in the life of another.
For instance, from a special folder where I keep notes from parents and students, one particular note stands out from the rest. One parent wrote in a card, “Thank you so much for all your guidance this year for C. and for me. I have enjoyed helping in the classroom and I really appreciate all the growth I have seen C. make this year because of you! Thank you.”
From her son, C., I got this note; “Mrs. Luikens, thank you for teaching me through the year. You have been so helpful.”
Among these keepsake notes from parents and children, I have a few apology notes as well. Even though I’ve never asked any of my students to apologize to me, a few students felt compelled to do so. I accepted these notes like I have the others, with gratitude, but their words of remorse cause me to pause. One young lady wrote, “Dear Mrs. Luikens, I am sorry for my rude behavior and nasty attitude.” She goes on to explain the stress at home she has been under but still realizes that she had, “no right for what I did and how I talked to you.”
Her words are telling. Somehow she knew that she’d fallen short. She knew she’d failed to meet a standard, one she saw and recognized as one worth striving toward.
Why bother influencing others? As individuals in a community, at home, or a place of employment, our lives automatically influence others. To do so in a positive way takes a special effort, but the effort definitely impacts the lives of those around us.