Melissa Boyd - The Power of a Teacher

Thursday, 19 Jun 2008 | 10:03 PM ET

To me, real power is the ability to create change. The power of money, force, and fear are all obvious factors in everyday life that cause change. Although, once that bank account is

empty, the force is exhausted, or the fear overcome, the power is gone. Teachers have great power, stemming not from money, but from their ability to change the world through empowering our future generation.

Children around the world are influenced by their teachers as they learn concrete skills and strategies or simple life lessons. It is the teacher’s power that enables them to impact students of all levels and instill in them the awareness that they can be successful individuals. Students who are empowered in school light up with the realization that they can accomplish something truly challenging. Touching the life of a child is the single snowflake that can start the avalanche. There is no limit, no bound to the distance or time your influence can travel. When my days as a teacher are through, I know that the good I have done will live on in my students and everyone they touch along their own journeys. To me, that’s power.

Part of my job at York Preparatory School includes teaching in the Jump Start Department. There I work with students one-on-one to provide them with instruction in the skills and strategies that they need in order to be independent and successful learners. Recently, a colleague at York asked one of my students if he felt any scholastic or social growth over the past year. This student expressed that he had improved and said that it was because of “Ms. Boyd,” to which I reminded him that I had helped but that he did the hard work that goes with school success. Perhaps I turned the “thank you” back to the student because it provided me with an additional opportunity to build self-confidence. Teachers have power; the power to influence, to guide, and to develop self-confidence in their students.

The power that comes with teaching is accompanied by great responsibility. Teachers have the ability to use their power in a positive or negative way. Most adults can tell you which teacher was their favorite, along with what powerful lesson that teacher instilled in them. Similarly, most adults can identify a teacher that was stifling, discouraging, and damaging to their childhood self. I remember my eighth grade math teacher who thought I wasn’t capable of the higher math class. Likewise, I clearly remember the high school teacher who made me love math again (Ms. K); I went on to receive my B.S. with honors in math from St. Joseph College.

Undoubtedly, the ability to remember one’s favorite and most loathed teacher is shared by many. Teachers have a legacy that extends far beyond their time in the classroom. Powerful teachers reside at all levels of education from elementary school through graduate, from professional development in the workplace to a grandparent chiding a grandchild. I think so fondly of my professor’s at Teacher’s College who further instilled in me the love of learning and the value in pursuing knowledge. Teachers have real power, and that power has nothing to do with the number of zeros on their paycheck or the size of their office. This power has to do with knowledge and the ability to have a profound impact on lives of others, and in turn, change the world we live in.

- Melissa Boyd