I regularly receive emails from various websites. Most of them are emails containing inspirational quotes or sayings; basically emails that encourage us to be better human beings. I recently received this one.
Remember that someone is looking up to you now, preparing to follow your example. Let this guide your next choice.
We often think that we are operating in a vacuum, that no one is watching us, that our actions are mostly private. Yet, what if you knew that your every thought, word, and deed today was going to be imitated by one who admires you?
I’ve been pondering on this email for a while now. Being in the teaching profession for 35 years I know unreservedly what being watched is like. Whether we teachers like it or not, we are always being watched by our students and their parents. It is a rare occurrence for me to not be seen by a former student of mine when out in public. It is not unusual to have some young person from the school I taught at in my community to yell out to me with a greeting or to wave at me when I am out and about in the community. It was also common to have a student, when I was still teaching, come up to me and tell me that they saw me in some store or walking on the street, or some such thing. As a teacher, you are always in the public eye. Now I admit, I have always had struggles with this. I sometimes avoided attending community events because of it. It has also given me a much greater compassion for our political leaders, entertainers, sports stars and other people who are even under more scrutiny by the public.
I often think of celebrities and how difficult it must be for them. Not only do random strangers notice them, but many of them are constantly followed by the Paparazzi. There is a reason that LAX is providing a new option for Hollywood celebrities looking to skirt airport paparazzi. The article states LAX is set to approve plans to convert a cargo office into a small new terminal that will allow passengers to drive into a secluded entrance, get screened by the Transportation Security Administration privately and be driven across the airfield straight to the stairs to board their flights.
In August of 2015, Buckingham Palace issued an appeal to world media not to publish unauthorized images of two-year-old Prince George, the elder child of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. He is third in line to succeed his paternal great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, after his paternal grandfather Charles, and his father, William. (see Prince George harassed)
The palace says in recent months, photographers have done such things as used long-range lenses to photograph the Duchess of Cambridge playing with her son in private parks, have monitored the movements of Prince George and his nanny around London parks, as well as observed movements of other household staff, pursued cars leaving family homes, and used other children to draw Prince George into view around playgrounds. Whether people are a member of a Royal family, a Hollywood celebrity, or politician, these people have a right to privacy, although I am certain that they are all very aware that they are in the public eye.
Over the years I have become more and more aware of how much I was being examined. Sometimes when talking to former students I will ask them what they remember about my classes. I have yet to have a former student tell me it was one of those brilliant lessons (at least I thought so) I had taught. Instead their response to my question is always connected to relationship. Former students would tell me it was most often something I said to a student. I had one former student tell me that it meant the world to him when I told him in school, paraphrased “You’re a lousy student but you are a really nice guy.” He said he appreciated the fact that I still liked him even though he wasn’t the best student. Another student told me that I was one of the teachers that cared; I was one of the teachers that always listened and helped. Now I write this with the risk of sounding vain but the point I am making is that students notice. They notice when you care. They notice when you are kind. They know when you like them or not.
A person does not realize how much they have impacted a student until they receive letters from them. One student wrote, “I haven’t been in this school very long; you were one of my first teachers… During the many classes we had together you made it very enjoyable and you were very understanding when people didn’t have a clue on what you were talking about.” Another student in a “Thank You” card wrote, “Thanks for being a part of my high school career. I know we had our ups and downs, but just know you have made a difference in my life, and every one else’s”. Still another student wrote in a letter, “I would like to start this letter of appreciation to you by saying what a great teacher you are. Whenever I needed help, you would come right over and do your best to help me understand and that goes for the rest of the class too…I feel lucky to be in your classes at school.” My intent here is not to boast but to demonstrate that people notice how you treat them, what you say to them and most importantly your attitudes towards them.
In the 1980s I worked at a summer camp for three years. I was part of a team that planned, organized and implemented the programs. One of the first weeks of camp we did was what was called Counsellors Week. It was the week where we prepared the counsellors for the weeks where they would be working with the 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 year olds. I just went about doing my duties as a team member and being me. I had no idea how much I had impacted this one counsellor until I received a letter from him a number of weeks later. In the letter he told me that he had watched me during Counsellor’s Week, that I inspired him, and that he wanted to eventually be part of the team at camp so he could emulate me. I had no idea that I had such an impact on this young man. To say that I was shocked when I got the letter is an understatement. The point is people are noticing you even when you are not aware of it.
During a parent teacher interview many years ago, I expressed concern to the parents that I had noticed a change in their child. I was stunned to learn that the reason for this change was due to something I had said to the child; something the young person took offense to. The choices we make affect others whether we’re aware of it or not.
So always remember that someone is likely seeing you, maybe even looking up to you, and preparing to follow your example. Let this guide your next choice.
We are NOT operating in a void where no one is watching us, that our actions are mostly remote. Someone who admires you will reproduce your every thought, your every word, and your every action? Make your next choice with this in mind. Your choices could impact another person for the rest of their lives. That could be positively or negatively. If you are not sure how to be the kind of person that people look up to, check out, How to be a good person that people look up to.