Thursday, August 31, 2017

An Encouraging Word Can Last a Lifetime

As a high school principal in a small town, even getting fast food can be a unique experience. Of course, many of our students are the ones working at these restaurants. Sometimes, when I place an order at the drive through, the voice on the other end will say, "Hello Dr. G!"

This past week a student asked if I'd been to Sonic a day earlier. I replied that I had, and the student said, "Yeah I thought I recognized your voice."

We all have a voice. Every educator speaks hundreds of words every day. Sometimes at school and sometimes outside of school. How we use our voice is so important. It's important to use it in ways that make an impact.

Your words matter and might make a lasting difference far beyond what you expect.

I remember two instances of encouragement I received as a student that had a profound impact on me. Both were during times of transition in my life. The words of support were significant. They were at the right time and in the right moment. And as a result, I have never forgotten those words.

The first instance was shortly after my family moved to a new town, and I was in a new school. Not only was I in a new school, I was also entering high school as a freshmen. I went out for the basketball team, wanting badly to make the team. But in pre-season conditioning I was far behind the other boys. They blew me away, and quite frankly I was embarrassed and wanted to quit. But the head varsity coach approached me and said these words, "Don't give up. You can do it. Just keep working at it each day. I want to see you make this team."

I have never forgotten those words. Later that school year my family moved again. A couple of years after that, I played in a game against my old school and scored 18 points in a varsity game against Coach Radford, the same coach who encouraged me as a struggling freshmen. He created a monster.

The second instance was as a freshmen in college. My first semester didn't go so well because I was not focused academically. I knew I let my parents down, and I wasn't happy with myself either. But in my second semester, I was fully committed to getting good grades. I was studying and staying on top of everything. Psychology was a fun class but the professor was known for really tough tests. I had made a huge stack of note cards to study. I remember I was sitting near the front, and he noticed my stack of note cards. He looked at them and said, "You're working really hard at this aren't you."

It almost seems silly to me now that I still remember that comment so vividly. But it made a big impression on me. I looked up to the professor, and I was proud he noticed my effort.

Both of these examples were not extraordinary circumstances. They were caring educators who probably made a habit of lifting up students and encouraging them to do their best. But for me, the words were extraordinary. Your efforts to encourage can last a lifetime. You never know how your words may create a lasting influence.

What will students remember when they think of your voice?

Can you think of a time you were encouraged by someone in your life? How can you bring that to your work as an educator now? Who will you lift up? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

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