(Cross-posted at LeaderTalk)
I stand in the same place every day between every class. I see hundreds of kids file past me four times a day and I never thought they even noticed or cared. I say “hi” to kids who make eye contact with me and I smile a lot. I joke with kids who bump into me while they perform the dangerous “walk and text” maneuver. But overall, I doubt many of them even know who I am.
Shortly before the holidays, I was having one of those stressful days where it seemed nothing I needed to do was coming together and I was dealing with an above average number of interruptions. I dutifully headed into the hallways between classes, “did my time,” and came back to my office to continue plugging away. The day passed and — as they always do — things worked themselves out.
The day before we went on winter break, I was in my usual spot between classes smiling and joking with the kids as usual when a student I recognized but didn’t really know walked up to me. She always says, “Hi, Mr. Elias!” on her way past, but I didn’t know her name. She was just another in a sea of faces flowing past me every day on her way from class to class. That day, though, she stopped briefly. She smiled at me and said, “I’m glad to see you’re in a better mood today! The other day you just didn’t seem yourself. Is everything OK?”
I can’t tell you how shocked I was that this student not only noticed that I was there in the same spot every day, but she’d also noticed when I wasn’t my usual, goofy self when she passed by. It really made me start to think about how important it is to be cognizant of the “face” we present to our schools and communities. It’s one thing to be positive and upbeat at a faculty meeting or SAC meeting — times when you know you’re being watched — but it’s another thing completely to consider that you are always “on stage.”
That little experience really forced me to be more aware of how I was portraying myself to others at those less important times. And the funny thing is that when my mind is wandering to something that’s stressing me out, I’ve found that if I try pretending to be cheerful in the halls a strange thing happens: after a while I’m not pretending anymore.