Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Balcony People

Earlier this school year, all of the Fairfield Community School District employees were able to share a morning with Dr. Steven Layne from Judson University.  His message was entitled, "Balcony People: Teachers Make a Difference." Dr. Layne described "Balcony People" as those people that have made contributions to your life in which they have altered your direction, smoothed the path ahead, or guided you across treacherous ground.  Those people that have helped us become all that we are - our personal cheerleaders.  

My Take Aways:

Everyone Makes a Difference No Matter the Position 
Dr. Layne stressed that when he said the word "teacher", he meant all of us in that room.  He stressed that everyone inside a school district can make a difference in a student's or staff member's life if they make the choice to do so. The "teacher" can be a teacher, administrator, paraprofessional, cook, custodian, bus driver, central office member, secretary, maintenance worker, or school board member.  We are all "teachers".  The key is that it is our choice if we make a positive difference in the life of someone we come in contact with everyday.

Relationships, Relationships, Relationships
When Dr. Layne spoke of relationships, he gave the example of when students come back to see us they often look at you in a shy manner and say, "Do you remember me?"  He stated that what the former students really want to say to us is, "I remember you."  Why do they remember you?  Because you cared for them. You made them feel like they had a person that was in their corner looking out for their best interest.  You were someone that would support them along the way with praise but also someone that would be honest and give advice when the person was heading in the wrong direction. 

Power of Believing 
Dr. Layne shared with us that he had a teacher that encouraged him when he had to write a twelve page story to write in sophomore English.  He was discouraged and was stuck with what to write about for his story.  His teacher knelt next to his desk and encouraged him.  She told him that this was his chance to tell his story.  She believed he could do it.  After he completed the story and turned it in to his teacher, she thought so much of it that she entered it into a writing competition.  This action from his teacher gave him confidence to become a writer and stated that he owes his profession to his teacher believing in him.  He then stated something that struck me.  "What if I was in someone else's sophomore English class?"  This is similar to the educational lottery.  This is why we have to know and understand our students. We never know the day when our words and actions are going to impact someone's lives forever.  

Balcony People, Not a Basement Person

Basement people... 

  • ...constantly pull you down or discourage you.  
  • ...make everything about themselves and their feelings rather than serving others. 
  • ...make people's lives more difficult.  
  • ...make people feel like life is doom and gloom. 
  • ...ridicule those that have a great outlook on life.  
  • ...are jealous of other's success.
  • ...backstab those that have trusted them in the past.  
  • ...make people want to avoid being in their presence.  

Are you a Basement person?
Balcony people... 
  • ...shout down at us from their view with valuable and often life-changing advice.
  • ...see the best in others and want the best for them all of the time.  
  • ...lift people up to be a better person. 
  • ...help lead others in the right direction.
  • ...serve those in all times of need.
  • ...draw people to them because of their ability to positively impact lives.
Are you a Balcony person?

Reflective Questions:
Who has always been in your balcony?
Who have you allowed in your balcony?
Would you be the same person if you didn't have these balcony people?
Whose balcony are you in right now?
Whose balcony have you been in the past but are no longer?  Why?
Do you think others would identify you as a balcony person?

1.  Identify your balcony people.  Let them know they are in your balcony.  Share why they have been influential to you.  The time is now.  

I know I have two people, in particular, that have been in my balcony since I was in grade school and I still am in contact with them today.  They have helped shape who I am today.  When I talk to them on the phone or see them in person, the time flies by because I don't want the conversation to end.  The only thing I haven't done is to share with them what they have meant to me over the years.  I assume they know but it is time for me to step up and thank them for being in my balcony.  It's the right thing to do.

2.  Be intentional about being in a student or staff member's balcony.  Be there and cheer for them.  Be whatever they need, everyday.

This is an on-going, everyday action to hold ourselves accountable to be servant leaders and educators.  As educators, this will look different everyday.  This is what makes education awesome! 

3.  In your own life, allow someone new to be in your balcony.  Be open to those that have your best interests in mind.  As Dr. Layne stated, "Sometimes, we need to build more rows and additions to our balcony."

Dr. Layne left our staff with a lasting thought that I won't be forget.  He stated, "Educators reserve a tremendous number of balcony seats in the lives of their students.  It takes more than what is written in our job descriptions to be balcony people.  Never underestimate the power of a seat in the balcony in which someone is the only show in town."  This is a great reminder that we are all "teachers".