I feel sometimes powerless and small, overwhelmed and inadequate, engulfed in thoughts and feelings that perhaps what I am doing is insignificant, that my life’s pursuit, that my teaching, is futile.
And I say “Who am I to change the world? Who am I to think that I can make a difference?”
And then I reflect on the young people under my charge, and I think about my role and about what power, if any, I have.
And I find that I am not devoid of resources or strength, that I am, indeed, endowed with talent and ability and strength.
I do, after all, decide what will be taught. And it is largely my prerogative when it will be taught and how, and where, and why it will be taught.
To a great extent I determine the curriculum. And the richness and intensity with which it is taught is in my hands.
I have that power. And I have the ability to think and to plan and then to implement; to select from my repertoire of skills the one best suited to my purpose, yet still able to adapt myself to student needs with the dexterity of an artisan.
Most adults would be fortunate to perhaps last out one day overseeing a roomful of kids. My orchestration makes enlightened music of the chaotic din.
I guess you could say this is power!
I have the power. I have the vigour to motivate, the fullness to laugh, the courage to control. I have the power to uplift and to create and, when I’m red-hot, the intensity to inspire! I can form my students into lines or circles, triangles or squares.
With just one look I can let a student know that everything is well with the world and that he or she has a perfect right to aim for the very top of it all!
And I can use my hands: turned up to lift them up; or turned down to keep them down.
What power do I have in the system? In the eyes of my students, I am the system.
And I have the power to lead them places they did not know existed, to build them back up when society tears them down, to catapult them higher than I myself will ever reach; and to push them gently, but assuredly, into the unknown, painting for them in broad brush strokes a future I can never hope to see.
And every day I have the wherewithal in my classroom to build walls or to build bridges between the generations.
And it is within my discretion to design a rigid, competitive structure or a cooperative, helping the network in my classroom.
I even affect the weather! What I do every day determines whether their world will be indifferent cold or sweathouse hot, or warm, inviting, alive and vibrant with learning.
If I succeed I pass the knowledge about what is important to the next generation.
And, because their world will be better for my labour mine is an important service to a just cause.
Mine is a present power and future power. If I can reach the children of today I touch the children of tomorrow. Mine is giving power.
All that I know about the world and about how one learns about the world I must give.
And in the giving of my gift, I receive my greatest power: the power to teach my students to learn how to learn.
Empowering them is of the essence, for if their teacher feels sometimes powerless and small, how insignificant must they sometimes feel?
And when the last day comes, and it is time for us to part we gather together, say our good-byes, and separate.
After that there is sadness but a certain contentment that I am sure only teachers feel.
It is a happiness that comes from knowing that a part of us forever, transplanted, lives… No, thrives! inside of each individual who has gazed at us across tired brown desks and called us “Teacher.”
Even on a down day – when I’m feeling puny and insignificant – I try hard to remember that all it takes is one person – just one person! – to make a difference in their lives.
And, there is no reason in the world that that person cannot and should not be me! I can make a difference! That is my power. That is the power to teach.
By Dr. Frank Trujillo
God of passion, You call us to be people of commitment;
making a difference in our world through our work in this school.
Set alight the fire within us that we may live out our convictions
with our head, our heart and our hands.
We ask this in the name of Jesus, our teacher.