Keeping The Heart Of An Educator

I remember a story a good friend told me about her first year as an assistant principal.
She worked with a teacher who frequently referred the same boy to the office for misbehavior.

Although the boy (I’ll call him Billy) deserved the consequences he received, the teacher was convinced he was impossible to help and really wanted him out of her class.

One day when the teacher had endured an especially rough time with Billy, my assistant principal friend asked if she could take her for a drive during her plan period.

The teacher agreed and before long, they had driven a short way from the school and parked in front of a home that was so neglected, it could have been condemned.

“Why are we here?” the teacher asked.

“Because this is where Billy lives,” said the assistant principal.

They sat in silence for a minute. My friend just let it sink in.

Suddenly, the teacher burst into tears. “I had no idea,” she cried.

That drive changed the way she saw her student.

Billy didn’t get any easier to manage, but her heart toward him had changed. Now when she disciplined him, there was something different about her tone and motivation.

My friend explained that by the end of the year, Billy had become one of the teacher’s favorite students.

How Do You See?
Being an educator requires wisdom and courage. It also means checking your heart often.

Here are some good questions for self-reflection:

How do you view the kids in school who may be on the social edges?

How do you treat the ones who have a track record for challenges and failure?

If you cannot answer that you will treat them with the same consistency, firmness, and fairness you show to all students, then the biggest challenge you may have this school year is yourself.

So here’s the big question:

How do you maintain the balance of consistent discipline while also keeping your heart in check?

That question requires you to dig deep into what really motivates you to be an educator, and what really motivates you most in life.

On the one hand, you must be consistent with discipline and expectations if others are going to respect and trust you.

On the other hand, you must maintain the dignity of the person with whom you are interacting, or you will lose his or her respect.

Perspective Check
Just like the teacher was changed when she saw the living conditions of her challenging student, you can be motivated when you remember that position, degree, age, and status do not make one person inherently better than another.

Each of us is equal in worth. And each of us benefits when we treat others like we would want to be treated.

As you serve your school community this year, do not forget the educators who once believed in you as a student and motivated you in life.

It’s your turn to pay-forward on that investment by consistently challenging and caring for others at the same time.

Now It’s Your Turn
What are some ways you stay motivated to treat others with dignity even when they don’t necessarily “deserve” it?

Posted originally at

Copyright 2014 by William D. Parker, Connect through Twitter with handle @williamdp or at


  1. […] Suddenly, the teacher burst into tears. “I had no idea,” she cried.” To read further please click here: […]

    August 29, 2014
  2. Tejech Mehta said:

    Hey there, I found your blog very informative and helpful. I’ve read almost all your blog posts and would really love to read more of it. I suggest you also syndicate your blog on popular sites like where you will find millions of like minded people as a ready audience. Keep Blogging. Cheers!

    August 30, 2014
  3. Shawn Blankenship said:

    I really enjoyed this article. I believe a perspective check is important and it just may transform the way an educator responds to a child. As a principal, many times we have the privilege of knowing a child’s background or circumstance, as a result, we are sensitive and understanding when working with the student. For teachers, it’s hard sometimes to gain background information. Your assistant principal made a significant decision and it’s impact may change the way this teacher responds to her students for the rest of her career.

    I was once part of a very high socioeconomic district. However, there were pockets of low socioeconomic neighborhoods in the outskirts of the district. My principal loaded all teachers on a bus a few days before the first day of school. She drove us through such neighborhoods. Then we discussed patience, understanding, flexibility, interventions, Internet access, etc… It really made a huge impact. We had no idea such homes and lifestyles existed.

    August 30, 2014
  4. Thanks for sharing that story Shawn. What a great move by the principal to bring home the importance of knowing where kids come from. Have a great school year!

    August 31, 2014

Comments are closed.