…if a child knows how to read, if a child knows how to search for information, how do we teach them how to believe. How early in a child’s life, can we put that in there.” Sugatra Mitra
Since the beginning of 2014, the same word has been popping up in my head over and over again. It is trajectory. One of the definitions of the word is, “a chosen or taken course”, and I think about the people in my life that have often inspired me to change my trajectory for the positive. There are times, that my trajectory has changed for a positive in spite of people, and sometimes it has changed for a negative. I am sure that I have impacted people in a negative way in the past, and I am trying to focus on helping others reach something that they didn’t think that they could possibly attain before. Like most teachers, I want to make a difference. Every action, interaction, and reaction you have with someone is an opportunity to change their path; I want them to move up because of me, not in spite of our interaction.
I asked the following questions yesterday:
“Did you have a teacher impact you? What did they do differently from others?”
Not one person responded about a science test (check out the hashtag #whatgreatteachersdo for responses) that inspired them, yet most of the answers talked about some personal connection and belief that a teacher had in them. Although teachers have to deal with many students, the best ones make every student feel that they are special and cared for. That is a great teacher’s gift.
As a principal, I waited outside in the morning for the students to get off the bus and tried to say hello and acknowledge every student as they arrived to school. I did not do this because it was my job to do supervision, but because the opportunity to start off the morning feeling like you could make a child smile with a little acknowledgment, is a pretty amazing way to start the day. Yet with hundreds of students in our school, there is no way that I could have seen every one. My expectation, was that teachers would be waiting for their students outside of their doors and greeting them as they came in. If you think about it, some of those students that you greet, is their first acknowledgment in the day. Yes, they might be around people as they come to school, but it does not mean anyone has shown any interest. I am not solely talking about students that come from families in poverty, as we should never make the assumption that a child coming from a family of means is one that is also feeling loved. It is always the safe bet to show love and care for every student.
I have walked down the hallways of many schools, and I watch teachers and administrators walk by students and not even look at them. It kills me. A little acknowledgment to a student, can be all they need for you to change their trajectory that day, and possibly beyond. I have watched leaders like Jimmy Casas and Patrick Larkin, acknowledge every student and staff member that walks by them in a day. If you watch people like these two, you will realize it is unnatural for them to not have those interactions. They change trajectories every single day, because they know those kids and staff members do the same for them.
I also watch administrators stop their teachers dead in their tracks from trying something new to help kids. Instead of saying, “How can I help you?”, they simply say “no”, just often in a more elaborate way. If you want your teachers to have those interactions with students to show that they believe in them, we must model the same thing. If I know a teacher cares for their students, and will do anything for them, as a leader, I exhibit that same behaviour. Sometimes a simple “yes”, or “go for it”, is all that teacher needs to be great. “No” often ends that excitement and enthusiasm quickly.
So as I continue on in this year, I will continue to think of my words and interactions with others. I am someone who wants to leave a legacy, and in education, legacy is not defined by what you do, but by what the people you serve do. Helping others to achieve greatness and changing their trajectory to do something that they might not have once believed possible, is our work.
Sometimes the only thing a person needs to change their path is to feel that someone believes in them. Let’s remember that in everything we do.