When I was 12 years old I was in our annual school musical, “Oliver”. I was a milkmaid. It was a role, but let’s be honest, not the most important character in the show, in fact, one of the only characters who has no impact at all on the plot. I did have to sing a couple of lines in “Who will buy?” with my good friend Becky but it was not a huge role.
Why am I telling you this? Well, it was during that week that my life was changed by the most unlikely teacher. Our head of CDT (as it was then) was a formidable man, he never smiled and was a true perfectionist when it came to the school productions. He created amazing sets, ensured that the lighting was perfect, the sound was impeccable, he worked with our local theatre as well as on shows at school, he knew what he was doing. Well, I was a shy and insignificant 12 year old, barely brave enough to stand on the stage, the proverbial rabbit in the headlights, every night.
One night Mr Stokes, that was his name, came storming into the gym (our “backstage”area) before the start of the show. He was fuming! He started shouting about how disappointed he was with everyone’s behaviour. How shambolic the production was and how if “everyone was as professional as Katherine Smith the show might have a chance”. In case you haven’t already guessed, Katherine Smith is my maiden name. Well, at the time I wanted to gym floor to swallow me up. I was mortified to have been singled out. Over time though, I realised a couple things; firstly, someone had noticed me and not just noticed me but noticed me for the right reasons, secondly, someone with such high standards, had held me up as an example of how “professional” everyone else should be.
That moment changed my life.
It sounds dramatic, but that recognition gave me the confidence to audition for a bigger part the year after and I continued auditioning for bigger and bigger parts until I was playing lead roles and I even went on to perform on stage at the London Palladium as an adult. I honestly think that that one comment had a huge impact on all those future events.
I have lots of examples of teachers who have influenced me and I’m proud to say that I have been contacted by not just ex-pupils, but also people I went to school with myself, over the years and been delighted to hear that people remember me for a small act of kindness which had an impact on them.
Why am I telling you all this?
Well, you are in a very privileged position. You can make a difference to countless children every day. The teacher who changed my life, Mr Stokes, never actually taught me but he had an impact. It might be a child you commend in the corridor walking to assembly or while you are playground duty. You can change lives.
We are approaching the end of another academic year. What can you do to make sure that you leave your children with something life changing to remember you by?
Well, here are a few ideas I had:
- Make them a bookmark with a positive statement about them or a few positive words that you think of when you think of them: John is helpful, hardworking and a good friend. A laminated piece of paper could make all the difference.
- Create an affirmation which you think will help them. An affirmation is a positive statement in the present tense to help you believe something you are currently struggling with. “I have beautiful handwriting and I always try my hardest” The beauty of this is that you are making the child feel good about something they may not be feeling very proud of.
- Get all the children to write a positive sentence about each of their class mates and compile them and give the list of sentences to each child so they know what their peers really think about them.
I’m sure you can think of lots of lovely ideas yourself.
Remember, the times you have the biggest impact are probably the times you aren’t even aware of. You are doing an amazing job, never forget that.
I am now friends with Mr Stokes, he isn’t scary, I’m even allowed to call him Peter, and he had no recollection of these events and was genuinely surprised when I told him this story a few years ago.