You never know who you are influencing, and teachers in particular influence any number of people. The National Day of Listening is the day after Thanksgiving. I believe a teacher inaugurated this day, which makes sense. A teacher should always be listening, because it is in questioning and explaining that many students find themselves learning. Teachers expect, or should expect, students to question, explain, and get concepts wrong.
While subbing for an absent eighth-grade science teacher, I found myself explaining what ‘the peanut gallery’ means, why welders need special goggles, and why the periodic table is important to the lives of eighth-graders. Has anyone ever told them why it’s important? I never heard any other teacher say why. All they said was that there was an assignment built around the periodic table that needed completing by a certain time, and the guidelines needed to be followed.
Learning the periodic table is important not only because you may suddenly find yourself on ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’, which is what I told them, but it is also one of the first steps to learning so many exciting careers, chemical engineering, the space program, nuclear medicine, x-ray tech, forensics, construction, weapons and demolition, among many others. If the ultimate aim of schooling is to have an educated, prepared, and motivated citizenry who wishes to keep their country and society strong and vital, then students should know why they must learn what they are learning, and why it is important.
I was only in this class for a few short days, but I had a chance to help students with research, writing an acrostic, creating a summary, and how to learn and remember some key facts for a test. It was important for them to remember items such as the transition metals being the largest family on the periodic table, and I found a way for them to remember it.
The ‘t’ in transition stands for Thanksgiving when you have a large family dinner. The metalloids are on ‘the stairs’ of the periodic table, and I helped them picture it: a rock group dressed in leather and bling, named The Metalloids, standing on the stairs waiting to give their concert. Now I won’t forget those facts, so who influenced whom? Did the students influence me, or was it the other way around?
It isn’t only teachers that influence people. We can have an influence on other people, every day. How many strangers have you met in passing, conversed with while waiting in line, or sat beside on a flight, who had some sort of influence on your life? They may have given you a tidbit of wisdom or knowledge, conveyed a sense of serenity and calm in the face of a crisis or drama, exhibited kindness to another stranger or worker, offered to be part of your network, or became a confessor or a person to whom you could safely blow off steam, because you knew you would never see them again.
Whether you realize it or not, you have been one of those people more than once.
We have a significant impact on our friends and family, but we also can influence others in many ways, every day. This should serve to hold us to higher standards in work and play, because people are watching, listening, and remembering.