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!
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