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April 29, 2011 The Power of Positive Influences in Your Life (In and Out of the Classroom) By Angela Bunyi
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

    Screen shot 2011-04-28 at 9.10.47 PM

    Screen shot 2011-04-28 at 9.05.19 PM

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