My girlfriend is the art teacher at the school I am currently at. She’s also a very talented artist.
When she paints, I get to DJ. I try to keep the variety of music wide, but every now and then, I just get hung up on a band. Well one night it was The Beatles. I was listening intently that night to the music and lyrics of songs like “I am the Walrus”, “Across the Universe”, “Get Back”, “Carry That Weight”, “I Will”, and one of my all time favorite Beatles songs, “Come Together”.
I started to really think about what music is: a collection of notes played together to create a brand new sound. When notes are played together they make a chord. When more chords are added together and played in a certain pattern it creates a rhythm. When a sequence of notes are played it creates a melody. When lyrics are added to the melody it becomes the song we all sing. Sing that over the collection of chords played, and you have a song. It was mind blowing to continue thinking that all of what music is has such a tremendous impact on the mind, the emotions, and even the physical feelings of a person. Music has helped people get through some of the darkest times. A lot of times music has memories attached to them. Music has given me hope when I had none. It made me feel like someone else understood what I was going through, like someone finally gets me.
“Hey Jude” came on next. “Hey Jude” is about hope in dark times. I’m sure that many people have found encouragement from that song. A question popped into my mind: Did Paul McCartney and John Lennon have any idea that this song, or any of their songs for that matter, would change someone’s life? Did The Beatles ever think that the music they were writing would change the world?
The answer is probably “no”. They may have dreamed about their potential, about the impact that their music and their lives would have on millions of people, but I’d almost bet that when they picked up a pen to write lyrics or they sat down to record a song, that there was a little bit of uncertainty. Artists, you see, are gamblers. The Beatles gambled with every song they wrote. Will it be a hit or a flop? Will it impact countless people, inspire them, help them through dark times? Will this song meet its fate along with the list of countless songs that are never remembered?
Did they know? Did they have any idea how much of an impact they were making with their music? I don’t think they did. I don’t think anyone truly knows what the aftermath of their actions and words will be. I didn’t comprehend just how severe the consequences of some of my past actions would be. I didn’t know that some of my words would spit venom at the people they were directed to. I would never have said or done certain things if I knew just how much they would hurt people. However, I also didn’t know just how important it was for me to do things like earn my National Geographic Educator Certification until it changed how I taught. I didn’t know that getting on Twitter would connect me with some of the greatest and smartest educators ever.
You just never know.
I want to encourage you with those words. You just never know how what you say or do is going to change a kid’s life. For better or worse, we impact students. Even if they look back on their life and say that you made no impact, you did. Whether the student admits it or not, there is an impact that you make on them, for better or worse.
So what does this mean for us as educators? It means that we need to bring our A-Game. That we need to shut up and teach. That we need to search for ways to transform a lesson into an experience. It’s a call to make students feel safe and comfortable. It’s a call to make sure that students are having fun, that school isn’t a place that they dread, but a place that they love. We should be striving to make the most positive impact on a child’s life. We shouldn’t be squandering opportunities to go to a student’s wrestling match or their track meet, knowing that it could be a game changer for that student. You just never know how your words will affect your students, so watch what you say and be quick to apologize when you are out of line.
I want to leave you with encouragement. Whatever you have been hoping to do with your students, do it! Do it big, too! Don’t settle for okay or good enough. Don’t settle for doing something easy over something great! Don’t settle for worksheets when you students are dying to take over the learning themselves with projects, songs, dances, reenactments, etc. Strive for excellence, not mediocrity. Bring your passion into the classroom. Bring their passion into the classroom. Help them become the best version of themselves. Don’t impress them, inspire them!
You just never know how you will impact students. They are yours for an entire school year. That’s nine months, five days a week, and seven hours a day. That’s more than enough time to change a life, to inspire students, and foster a love of learning.
You have everything it takes to be creative. Even if you don’t believe in yourself, I bet that there is at least one teacher on your campus that believes in you. I believe in you too. Connect with me (Twitter: @carbaeli, Facebook: Elijah Carbajal). Still, there are others who believe in you, and their belief in your abilities and their trust in you can make a difference: it’s the students inside your classroom. Don’t let them down. Do everything it takes to make school a place where they love to be.