Thursday, February 13, 2014

Cracks Left Behind

When I was in High School I ran for Student Council.  Both my freshman and sophomore year I ran and got elected to be a representative.  My mom helped me with my campaign.  She came up with all my slogans.  One slogan that she came up with, and was the most popular, was "Don't get your panties in a wad, Vote for Todd".  I had it on stickers, buttons, handouts, everything.  Even going so far as to use it in my speech both my freshman and sophomore year.  Then my junior year I decided to run for Student Council President.  10 minutes before the election was to take place I got called into the office.  A teacher was offended by the slogan and the principal proceed to yell, yes yell at me.

 Is the slogan a tad controversial? Looking back now, defintely.  Would it ever pass in schools today? No way.  But this was about 10 years ago.  Keep in mind I had never been to the principal's office.  I worked to never be in trouble cause I knew I'd have to deal with my mom!

I can still clearly remember sitting in the principal's office, with the vice principal standing by his side and hearing him say "It's kids like you that ruin our schools.  You probably think you're funny and cute with this campaign slogan.  Well I'll tell you one thing, we don't need or want leaders like you.  You will never be a leader in this school."

Being a student who had never been in trouble like that, I was shell shocked.  That memory is still so clear in my head.  He sent me out of the office, delayed the election by 20 minutes (so they could mark my name off every ballot) and made me sit in the gym that day to listen to the other speeches without giving explanation of why I was removed.  I remember leaving that gym, going to a school pay phone, and calling home.  My mom, being the "mother bear" that she is came up to school a little upset.

 My spirit was broken that day.  By that one phrase of "we don't need or want leaders like you.  You will never be a leader in this school." The terrible part is that a part of me believed what they said.

But I had a wonderful family who supported me through it.  I had adults throughout my life who have reminded me of my worth.

Fast forward to today.  Today I have the privileged and opportunity to impact my students and adults every day with my words.  To build them up and make them believe great things.  But at the same time, my words have the power to destroy too.  And every comment and remark that leaves my lips, I have to evaluate.  Are my words going to crush someone's spirit?  Or will I choose to speak words that will build them up?

Choose your words wisely.  Ears are always listening whether we realize or not.  Broken pieces can be put back together, but you will always see the cracks left behind.


  1. Todd, this is so on point! I never understood why some teachers felt like it was their responsibility to berate students. I had a similar experience to you in HS, with a principal accusing me of something I had not done...and when I look back on it now, not only was it bad practice---but it was an awful lesson.

    When students make mistakes we need to see it as a "teachable moment"...not a chance to tell them why they are wrong.

    Thanks again for sharing this message!

    PS - My student council slogan was "Zero years of experience, just like George Washington!"

  2. Todd, I think it is safe to say that you proved him wrong! You were one of the lucky ones who had support from family and friends. I teach "at-risk" students and the quite a few of them come from homes where there is no support at all. These students share horror stories of how they are treated at home which break my heart. They share stories about how teachers and administrators have treated them throughout their years in the classroom and it is amazing that they have the desire to attend school at all. While many teachers dread parent-teachers conferences I LOVE them because it gives me the opportunity to share the wonderful things their child has been doing in the classroom. The look on their faces is priceless because it is the first time they have ever received good news about their son or daughter.....and my students range in age from 16 to 20!

    You are so right that words matter. Students are always paying attention to not only what we say, but how we say it.

    1. Thanks for much for reading and commenting Beth. Words matter! :-)