Influence

I've been a teacher for fifteen years. I've seen my students struggle, succeed and fail. I've watched them cross the stage and receive their diplomas. I've given them a metophorical kick in the back end when they needed it and literally been their shoulder to cry on or the hand to hold. I've held their children and stood at their coffins. I celebrate their successes when I hear of them and mourn the loss of their potential when I hear that another one has fallen off the straight and narrow.

Think for a moment about your favorite teacher. We've all had one. Some of us have more than one. I do. I wouldn't be a teacher if there weren't multiple wonderful influences in my life. Everyone had that one teacher who gave them that extra push, that spare moment, the words that made a difference. Ms. K and Ms. Stopka. Mrs. Nosek and Mr. Reynolds . . . like I said, I had a lot of great teachers. Ms. K told me I should write. Ms.Stopka got me Robert Aspirin's autograph because she knew he was one of my favorite writers. Mrs. Nosek put me in charge of something for the first time, proving to me that I could be a leader. She also introduced me to some of my favorite poems, poems I still love to share with my own students. Mr. Reynolds was the teacher who knew I wrote, looked and me and asked me what the hell I was going to do with it now--making me actually think that publishing was possible.

I was told this past weekend, that a couple of my former students said I was still their favorite teacher. I admit, it made me misty. You don't dive into teaching intending to be everyone's favorite. I intend to be the best I can be, to give the best and expect the best out of my kids. I'm kind of demanding, but so were some of my favorite teachers.

I am always aware of my influence on my students. I have enormous power that has nothing to do with standardized test scores. Just like I remember the words of some of my teachers, I'm sure my kids will remember mine, so I try and choose them with care. I'm sure, just as we all remember our favorite teachers, we also remember those teachers whose careless words hurt us. Years later some still bear the scars.

Here's hoping that I can keep that thought foremost as we head into the downward slide of the school year and be a positive influence for all my kids.

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