Comment on “The Power of a Teacher”

On a wonderful blog I’m following called “Be the Change” there is a post about a  powerful quote by Haim G. Ginnot. You can read the quote on the blog or here

I immediatly commented that I strongly identify with the quote and I stand behind that statement.  However, for the last 24 hours something was nagging at me about it and now I identified the problem.

There is a “but” in there. The teacher IS the decisive element in the classroom BUT not the only one. Sometimes things will get out of control, a “drama” will occur despite the fact that the teacher reacted or behaved in the manner we would define as the right thing to do. There is something about this quote that brings you close to passing the dangerous line from being a great teacher to trying to be a PERFECT teacher.  Which leads to misery because there is no attaining the status of perfect teacher.

A recent example of this occurred in my classroom. Pupils are not allowed to eat during the lessons. They are allowed to drink, chew gum (as long as they don’t make balloons!) but no eating. No eating during lessons  is a policy ALL kids are familiar with since kindergarten and I don’t make exceptions for that particular rule.  No long ago, first lesson of the day,  a 12th grader burst into my classroom and took out a sandwich. When I reminded her that she is not permitted to eat in class there was a huge scene which actually only lasted two minutes or less. It ended up with her leaving the classroom, slamming the door as she left. I felt bad about it all day but could not see how I could have reacted differently. She’s 19 years old, she can wait for the break to eat and that’s the kind of rule that if you make an exception to it – well, its like opening the floodgates!

At the end of the day the scho0l’s art therapist came  and told me that this pupil had had a major fight with her parents before coming to school and I was basically the first person she met when she arrived. Her reaction had nothing to do with eating and could easily have been about anything at all. She was brewing for a showdown with someone and I was there…

2 thoughts on “Comment on “The Power of a Teacher””

  1. I totally agree. We are not the ONLY decisive element in the classroom. Our students (especially if they are older) are as capable as we are to create the atmosphere and make or break the class, and we can only truly control how we are feeling. I’ve had experiences like this one you had with your student. It is so difficult not to think that we some how caused a negative reaction in a student. It is so hard not to take it personally…especially if you have taught the student for 9 years in a row like I do. But I always try and tell myself that I cannot control any thing other than how I am feeling. If ANY student (or person for that matter) blows up, cries, or is having a good or bad day, that person is the thing that can change the way they are feeling. We can have an influence…and help a bit, but they have to make the change.
    I’m so sorry you had a student who reacted so strongly and with such negativity. That is so hard. It is then even harder to rebuild the relationship. I hope all is healed and well with that student now. I hope that girl loses the “attitude” and is having an easier day the next time you see her.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *