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The Power of Positive Influences in Your Life (In and Out of the Classroom)

By Angela Bunyi on April 29, 2011
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

When I taught 3rd grade last year I was fortunate to have Lindsey Gagnon as one of my parents. I don't think I have ever — let me stress, ever — met anyone kinder and more caring in my entire life.

When I taught 3rd grade last year I was fortunate to have Lindsey Gagnon as one of my parents. I don't think I have ever — let me stress, ever — met anyone kinder and more caring in my entire life. She was the kind of parent that offered to bring me food at home when I called in sick; the kind of parent that offered her car when my precious Beetle broke down. She probably doesn't know this, but she continues to be an inspiration to me.

I love meeting and being surrounded by people like Mrs. Gagnon. They are such positive forces, and it reminds me that kindness begets kindness. What or who keeps you going each week? What makes you want to be a better person and teacher? This post is dedicated to the people, forces, and even mindsets that can help you and those around you shine.


Image copyright Random Acts of Kindness.


The Power of People and Unseen Forces


Outside of School: Family and Friends

If you are feeling stressed, pressured, angry, uptight . . . you might consider the company that surrounds you. For example, I found that running with an organized running group from my church just made my run feel easier and more enjoyable. That's pretty powerful. The parent that I mentioned — rather, adore — it's simply impossible to be in a hateful or angry mood if she's around. This was a great thing, considering she was my test proctor for our recent state tests. Or there's my sister Veronica who can take just about any situation and make it hilarious (she's one of the few people who make me laugh so hard I cry). She's the person I call if I have some bad news and need to make light of it. All of us have people in our lives who make things just a little bit better. But what about in school?

Photos: My cute family.

School: The Good . . .

At school, you may feel like you have less control of whom you associate with. This is true; however, you do have control over whom you become closer with and who will impact you on a daily basis. My grade level team members Lora Taylor and Cindy Jones and I just mesh together. We're a little odd. We've gotten in trouble a few times (we scream, "We live outside the box" to our principal), but I truly enjoy working with them each day. We have a lot of mutual respect for each other, and it makes all the difference in the world. My teaching life is much better because of them. 

School: Unseen Forces


But what if you don't work on a team of people that respects each other and gets along? I've been there, and it is not fun. In fact, it can make teaching quite miserable — if you let it. So what do you do? Back again I go to the parent I mentioned earlier. Her Facebook page lists her job as a "Professional Volunteer," and that's a perfect description of her life. Although she doesn't speak much about her faith, it's pretty clear that this influences everything that she does. Through this, she exudes so much positive energy, it's contagious. I think a spiritual influence, an unseen force and ally, can help tremendously with what one does in and out of the classroom. More importantly, it will put everything into focus, allowing you to see what is important and what is not.                                    

I am still — and will always be — a work in progress, but my life is better because of my faith and my involvement in my church. I've noticed that teachers that had the power to change my mood, or parents that seemed hard to please, just don't phase me as much anymore. I'm not advocating any particular faith or denomination, but you may want to investigate if another teacher is interested in strengthening their faith with you. My pastor speaks about unseen forces that can work on your behalf, and now I understand it. Luckily, in our school, one of our teachers heads up a prayer group before school called POWER. I've been in other schools that have offered it as well. With the National Day of Prayer coming up next week on May 5th, it might be easier to find someone.

Photos: (top R clockwise) Cindy, Julie, Trillia, Lora, and Pastor Allen.  Center- Lindsey Gagnon and her beautiful family.       

Don't Be Afraid to Shine!

As I write this, I can't help but to think about a previous post I wrote after another teacher made a remark about me during an in-service. I let it get the best of me. I came back to my classroom and, as I was retelling the story to a peer, I coined the term "Shiny Smoosher." We started laughing so hard, it made me realize that the whole situation was just silly. In my three years of writing for Scholastic, it's one of my favorite posts. I also believe it's apropos of the current topic. (Another relevant post, and the hardest one I've written to date, is "Approval Addiction: Stop Wearing Those Masks and Be Yourself!")

I think we all know at least one Shiny Smoosher at our school. Do you know what I am talking about? Shiny Smooshers are most prevalent in the educational setting and often found in female-dominated professions. I fear you may be working with some of these individuals now. Take my short quiz to see if you are guilty of association, before I determine how you can deal with the situation.


Shiny Smoosher: [shahy-nee smoosh-er] noun.

1. A teacher that temporarily feels better about themselves when they bring others down: "The Shiny Smoosher told the teacher that her teaching success was a result of not having any children."

2. A teacher that has forgotten how important it is to lift others up: "The Shiny Smoosher walked right by another teacher without saying hello."

Origin: Perhaps a bad childhood experience

Symptoms of a Shiny Smoosher

Do you know any teacher peers that:

____  seem to have the "worst" class every year?

____  correct you when you speak?

____  will take your ideas, but won't share any with you?

____  won't say hello to you in the hallway?

____  try to make you feel left out . . . on purpose?

____  don't follow directions, but will be the first to call you out if you don't?

____  have never congratulated you, even if a large award or grant was earned.

If you checked more than two of the above, you may be working too closely with a Shiny Smoosher.

Shine On!

I don't have to paint these individuals out for you. We painfully know who they are. And really, when you boil it down, you are going to encounter mean people wherever you go in life. The important thing is that you rise above it and accept who you are.

After a recent close encounter with a Shiny Smoosher, I thought of this quote from the movie Coach Carter:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, "Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?" Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

—Marianne Williamson

With this in mind, I think the following are important concepts to think about:

  • Don't be afraid to stand out from the crowd.
  • Don't be afraid to shine.
  • Live big. You only have one life.
  • Don't blame others. I like saying, "If it is to be, it is up to me."
  • Encourage others around you. They'll only appreciate you more.
  • Congratulate teachers when they have tried something new. We don't hear it enough.
  • Know that you can always improve. Be a student for life.
  • Don't be afraid of yourself.
  • Don't give up.

And perhaps the most important thing to think about is why we are here. We are in this profession to help others. We are here for the children. That is why we teach.

Thank You!

Which reminds me to tell you again how much I appreciate all the emails of support. Over the years I have answered hundreds of emails from teachers around the United States and the world. Thank you for helping me shine!

And a special thank you to Lora Taylor, Cindy Jones, Lindsey Gagnon, Julie Deffenbaugh, and Trillia Newbell (all pictured in the last photo) for simply being who you are. These are all powerful women who do a lot for others, including me. Today I just want to say that you all inspire me!

Recognize Your Powerful Influences

Take a second to think about the powerful influences in your life. Have you let them know how much they mean to you? When Lora Taylor brought me a vase of flowers- for no reason at all- it really meant a lot to me. Today I encourage you to recognize the powerful influences in your life. Maybe you can write them a short note, send them a message on Facebook, or simply tell them that they rock. I'm about to do the same thing for two of my listed influences right now (Trillia and Julie, it's been a long time!).


Image: The First Love

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Comments (14)


Thanks for taking the time to read through my previous posts. It reminds me that I need to do the same thing. With daily posts on Top Teaching I was not able to read everything. With so many good ideas, I need to go back and check it out myself.

Best to you Beetle lover,


I am just catching up on the top teaching blog since school is over. As I read through, I have gotten so many wonderful ideas from you (classroom economy) and advice. This is by far my favorite post. You are an amazing teacher and you're definitely shining. I know all of the readers appreciate it greatly. Thank you!


ps- I also have a beloved Beetle :)

Thanks Kristin,

One of my favorite sayings/mantras is that there are no shortcuts (Rafe Esquith). It's really true too. With my son's baseball practices and games taking up a solid 3-4 evenings a week, it's a tough job to do. Often, sadly, writing my weekly posts seems to be the hardest to fit in.

That is why I am always so appreciative of reader comments. It helps me know/remember why I am doing this and that I am making a difference...even on a small level, it matters.

Best to you,



Reading your posts are always like a breath of fresh air. I find inspiration in your words and in knowing that you are able to find balance between being a marathon runner, family member, and being a teacher. It at times seems to be an impossible feat, but you're doing it makes me think I can do it too!

Thanks again, Kristin


Wow, it sure doesn't feel like it- does it? Thanks again for sticking with me through the past couple of years (I'm sure not all posts are created equally).

And it's really nice to feel like I know many of my readers, like you.

Keep on shining...

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week,



I can't believe it's been three years since your Shiny Smooshers post! It's been fun following you! God Bless!


Perfect timing. We are in Chinese right now, and I was in an odd "funk" (for lack of a better word). I was blaming our gloomy weather. YOUR comment has now helped me to snap out of it. Thank you and keep on doing what you are doing!




You're welcome. Glad I could help you!


Hi Angela, I love reading your posts. Thank you for writing about the stresses that teachers face. I can think of a few Shiny Smooshers right now. After I took a class about desert plants and we were out walking, I mentioned the name of one of them, and she rolled her eyes in a "here we go" kind of gesture. Your quote, "if it is to be, it is up to me" is a perfect reminder for all of us. We are in control of what we can control...our attitude. :) I was having one of those Monday mornings today. Now, my goal is to go to school and focus on the positives in our classroom and at our school. Not every student will think I am the best and not every colleague will appreciate my "perkiness." But I will try to continue appreciating those around me and myself. Thank you again for your inspiration and postitive energy! :)Kelli McDermott

Angela, Thank you very much for the word study attachments. This will come in handy!



Thank you! Your kind words mean a lot to me. :)




Yes, I have you covered.



Here's a link that has these two links and more:


Let me know if you have any other questions. I'd be happy to help.



I have been following your blog for a long time. You are an inspiration to all. Thanks for the reminder to thank those that make us who we are.


Angela, You had a nice bulletin board on prefixes posted on you Scholastic Blog in May of 2009 (included in your blog about classroom design). I really liked each card you made. Do you have the cards online somewhere for others to enjoy? Thanks!!!

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