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Editors note: This article is part of Principal Kafele's lecture about empowering students, which he delivered to a Salt Lake City, Utah audience as part of WGU's Sage Talk series. See his entire presentation here.
It is often said, “The Power is in Your Hands.” I have recited this quote many times over the years to my students, my staff and even educators in my audiences as recently as last week. I ask my audience to hold out their hands and look at their palms, and I yell out, “THE POWER IS IN YOUR HANDS!”
On a recent flight, I thought deeply about that quote…both its meaning and its intended meaning, and I immediately thought to myself that this isn’t good enough for my audiences of teachers. In other words, toward being or becoming excellent classroom teachers, I don’t need them to have power in their “hands.”
I need for them to have power in their relationship-building with their students, in the compassion that they demonstrate toward children and in the instruction that they provide for their children. This is where I need their power to be located, but competency in these areas is preceded by their attitudes toward each. If their attitudes are not overwhelmingly positive toward their students, then the day-to day work that they do with their students is all for naught. I therefore concluded on that long flight that I don’t necessarily need them to have power in their “hands.” I need them to have power in their “attitudes.” The moment they realize their power is in their attitudes, the sky will be the limit for their students. There are two self-reflective questions about realizing the power of attitude that I ask my audiences
This is typically the first question I ask my audience at almost every professional development seminar I conduct for teachers. This is not an easy question to answer. It requires deep reflection, knowing one’s worth and honesty. The emphasis is on the word, “because.” I ask teachers if there is a direct correlation between their presence in the classroom and their students’ success. I ask them if their students would be better off with a different teacher, and if there is a higher probability that their students will soar BECAUSE they are the teachers in the classroom.
It is the teachers’ attitudes toward themselves that answers this question: “What is your attitude towards yourself as a teacher, your students, your craft and your own professional growth and development?” It is imperative that teachers realize the power they have with the attitude that their students are at an advantage with being on their class rosters.
With this question, I’m asking teachers if they are willing to roll up their sleeves and if so, how high? I’m asking them whether or not their students’ success keeps them up at night, eats away at them and keeps them preoccupied. I’m also asking how much of themselves are they willing to sacrifice for the betterment of their students….how committed they are to their students’ academic, social and emotional growth and development.
Teacher’s attitudes translate into actions. With that, teachers will show whether or not they want their students to succeed. It’s all about the “power within the attitude.”