Saturday, January 19, 2019

Just One Teacher Can Completely Alter the Trajectory of a Child


I am admittedly a social media “junkie.” I thoroughly enjoy posting education-related content literally every day and the follow up interaction with my social media friends and followers on all things education. Many of my posts are short quotes that just sort of pop into my head regarding how I view the education landscape. One of those quotes I posted recently drew a little more attention than my norm – “Just one teacher can completely alter the trajectory of a child...both for the good or for the bad.” I really didn’t see this one as being any different from the hundreds of other quotes I’ve posted over the years (I’ve saved them all), but educators really gravitated to this one…over 400 shares on Facebook and over 500 retweets on Twitter in one day! I thought, “wow…if there’s that much interest in this quote, I need to turn it into a blog post, so here it is.

There are 3.6 million teachers in the U.S. and each of them can wind up in any state, district, school and classroom in the country. There are 56.6 million school-aged children in the U.S. and each of them too can wind up in any state, district, school and classroom in the country. In your case, you wound up where you are and by fate, your students wound up in the same place with you. Of all the teachers and students in the U.S., you both occupy the same space.  Well that reality engenders a simple question: Are your students at an advantage BECAUSE you are their teacher? In other words, I’m asking you is there something special; something unique; something extraordinary; something advantageous about you being your students’ teacher? Does you being the teacher of your students raise the probability that they will be successful as students and successful in their adult lives? Is there something special about YOU being in that classroom? I challenge you to consider this question daily. I challenge you to have an honest conversation with yourself daily on this question via self-reflection and self-assessment. Why? Because it is absolutely imperative that as you walk into your classroom everyday, you walk into your classroom with an attitude of: I Got This! You walk into your classroom with an attitude of, “my students are going to soar today BECAUSE I am their teacher.” You are firmly aware that there are challenges, obstacles, pressures and demands that stand in your way and that you must contend with, but your attitude, your drive, your passion, your determination, your belief in your skillset are such that you will surmount every challenge, obstacle, pressure and demand that come your way.

But let’s go deeper. The title of this essay is, Just One Teacher Can Completely Alter the Trajectory Of a Child. I’m arguing here that of all the variables that can favorably or unfavorably impact the life of a child, your presence in the life of your students is immeasurable and undeniable. You absolutely matter. A youngster can go through 12 years of grade school and potentially have a plethora of substandard teachers but encounter that extraordinary teacher in grade 7 for example. Because of the drive and determination of that one teacher in grade 7 to see that this youngster completely understands the significance of education, and the drive and determination of that teacher to see that this youngster passionately believes in him / herself, there is a much higher probability that this youngster will be a success story. In this hypothetical example, this youngster was born into poverty and had to endure the realities that accompany poverty. Academics suffered as a result of the overwhelming challenges that this youngster has endured since birth and behavior was an ongoing challenge. This youngster was not on a path of success. But then you came along. In this case, in grade 7.  You were convinced that your students were at an advantage BECAUSE you were their teacher. You were “all in” on altering the trajectory of your student. You made it your personal mission to see to it that this youngster is on a trajectory to success…a trajectory of excellence. And because of your unwavering commitment to your student, your student went on and became a success story because EVERYTHING you poured into him remained with him long after he departed from you.

Conversely, just one teacher can completely undermine the trajectory of a child too. This is actually one of the scary parts of education. A student can go consecutive years with a great teacher and then in grade 5 for example, wind up with a teacher who is the antithesis of the aforementioned teacher…the drive, determination, passion and commitment are just not there. The teacher is strong in content but deficient in children. Because the teacher is deficient in children, connections are simply not being made and consequently, there’s a much higher probability that this student’s previous trajectory could be adversely altered as a result of the current teacher.

During the school day while your students are in your classroom, the number one determinant of their success or failure is YOU. Be ever so mindful of this reality and therefore stay committed to being that teacher that keeps your students on a trajectory of excellence!

For more Principal Kafele resources, visit principalkafele.com.

44 comments:

  1. Excellent! I will be sharing with our staff this week. Stay safe!

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  2. I am printing this out and posting this on my desk. This is my why!

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  3. Yes, this is so true. I have seen teachers who just give up, but I have also seen rockstar teachers who have the mindset that you discuss here. One teacher CAN make a difference!

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  4. Thank you for this wonderful reminder of why we chose to go in this beautiful field of education.

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  5. Its all worth it when a student comes back to you excited that they made the honor roll...all smiles......And I reply....I told you you could do it....

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  6. I will be sharing this with my staff. Excellent blog!! Thank you for your words of encouragement!!

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  7. May no administration ever silence a teacher who appreciates kids's struggles, who teaches to their strengths, and who encourages improvement on their weaknesses. That teacher loves his/her choice of career.

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  8. This was awesome! I will definitely be sharing with my colleagues.

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  9. This reminded me of the quote by Haim Ginott, “I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom...”. But I never felt like I should be frightened. I like your positive viewpoint better. You need to be “convinced that your students [are] at an advantage because you [are] there teacher.” Let’s not be frightened but instead be CONVINCED! Thank you for the inspiration!

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  10. Just named #1 Top Voice on LinkedIn in Education--this is going up right now to my 200,000 education followers! Love it!! Connect with me there please!

    https://www.linkedin.com/in/robynshulman/

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    1. Wow Robyn....thank you much!!! I will certainly connectwith you there.

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  11. Brilliant piece of writing, sir! This is at the very core of my beliefs and should be seen as a minimum benchmark for self-evaluation. Its very unfortunate that so many teachers don’t realize the potential power it brings..

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  12. So very true! This reinforces the importance our roles a leaders! We are indeed are the last best hope for many in our classroom. I will spread these words as charge to honor our roles as difference makers and game changers daily!

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  13. Sharing this blog, as a reminder to others, and affirming educator purpose. Too many adults have failed children and to fail them, is not an option; we can be that advantageous shift in their education and life. Thanks for your blog and educational leadership!

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    1. Thank you Mrs. Sam. Your words are very much appreciated!

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  14. Calamity day reading for my staff today. I just sent this in an email attachment. We'll talk briefly about it in our next staff meeting. Thank you for the writing! Sheila Evans

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  15. My colleague shared this with me and it was right on time. We've finished our 1st semester with students and it's important that when we visit why students were successful and why students were not as successful as they could have been that we look at ourselves. Honest reflection. Thanks for sharing this!

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  16. I agree with this so much. One year in a young person's life can shape his or her whole being. We tend to remember the bad more than the good.

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  17. I too believe you are spot on. Thank you for sharing this with our teachers in the Davenport IA system

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  18. I love this post. My principal shared this with our staff, and it is very uplifting. Hopefully we can all be the positive teacher you describe!

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  19. Thank you for this much needed reminder. I will share and discuss this at our next faculty meeting.

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  20. Principal Kafele - thank you for your thoughts. One of my principals included this in her weekly memo to her staff and I immediately smiled. Your content is confirmation of everything that I have said for many years. Very practical and impactful.

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