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Episode 8 | Powerful


Season Two | Episode 8


Powerful is defined as having or exerting great force, having great authority or influence, and being mighty and effective as a speech or speaker. In an essay called Step Sisters in her collection book The Source of Self Regard, Toni Morrison blew my mind by using a classic Disney movie to think about how these characters would use their power after the movie moments that we saw concluded.

In the story Cinderella story, she is forced and enslaved to work and do chores within the home of her stepmother and stepsisters. Easily overlooked was the role of the stepsisters and their participation in the actions that greatly impacted cinderella. Toni Morrison challenges us to think about the people they would become with that relationship with power. What type of mothers, friends, and I think about the teachers they would be.

  • What kind of teacher would they be with that lived experience throughout their lives?

  • How would they treat their students?

  • What would their student's experience be like?

  • What would the classroom culture be like?

They would need to go through the inner work to unlearn many of the systems and ideas of power that they have learned throughout their lives. Sometimes we have a great amount of power by unknowingly participating in the systems, actions, or under the leadership of others.

What now?

The kind of teacher you become is directly related to the kind of teachers you associate with...- Chris Emdin

The stepsisters had a friendship that perpetuated and affirmed the actions that oppressed another person in their family. Having power is one thing; using it well and for the good of others is an entirely different thing... and knowing when to wield some power could be the most powerful thing of all that someone can do. That impacts the kind of parent or teacher that you become. In order to be powerful responsibly, you have to consider the outcomes. Who is at the other end of the power that you wield?

There are plenty of teachers that are teachers because their craving for power happened early in childhood in wanting to manage and control others. it looks innocent... you want to be the teacher, and everyone else must hang on to your every word... even if those people were a collection of stuffed animals. At some point in your journey to self-actualizing your dream of being an educator, there should be a shift from being lit up at the idea of other people following your directions to people being lit because of your direction to go and blaze a path that best suits their lives.

This means you give over that power frequently to give the practice and pathways for students to figure that out (even in the youngest of students). If students leave your classrooms only knowing your thoughts and perspectives, then that doesn't prepare them for when they have to use their own. When it comes to your students in that year you have them, how effective you are as a leader, the opportunities you curate for your students directly impact their abilities, the trust between you, and their evolution of skills and mindsets.

I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.

-Dr. Haim Ginott

I want to talk to teachers that are early in their careers a little bit. This is the time when you may feel easily influenced by those around you, you are picking up tips, but you almost may start to hear some limiting beliefs of your students. This is where you start to harness your power. Take this as permission you can be selective about the advice you accept from others. You can listen to anyone, but those you invest in and spend time around adopting their practices and ideas is a different thing. Not everyone should have access to influence you. Just because a teacher has decades of experience on you doesn't mean they used those years well in the classroom.

I remember feeling like I had to do what people were telling me was best because I was so fearful in the space and wanted to be liked by my colleagues. I felt I had to earn my stripes with years of experience before I offered my opinion or even just did what was best for my students. During my first couple of years of teaching, students were receiving another teacher's classroom culture and language. While, in some ways, the modeling and roleplaying were helpful, I never found the power in my voice, perspective, and joy factor until I decided to do what most brought ME joy in the classroom.

I heavily designed my classrooms visually in a way no other teacher was doing. I found ways to incorporate movement, music, media, and art into my lessons. My classroom management went from a school-assigned clip chart to a 100 percent positive reinforcement and empowerment system. The teachers that had relied on nothing but the punitive systems, marking students down, didn't get it.

Once I found my zone of genius in the classroom, it became an unstoppable force. A great place to be and belong. I started recording videos of my classroom just to counteract the narratives that I was taught about my students early in my career, that students needed to be controlled and silent classrooms are the most successful. My classroom was loud, but I could get my students' attention in 2 seconds. We had mutual respect for what we were building together, and that made the environment that much more special.

For that to happen, I had to step aside in many ways, shift power... and empower my students.

So I ask you...

  • What's your thing, what's your sauce, the thing you would do for free every day if you could, it lights you up that much?

  • Is that thing something that is a part of your life right now?

  • If not, how can you infuse that thing into what you are doing?

  • What will you do with it when you have such power and influence?

There is power in honesty.

There is power in persistence.

An open heart is the first step toward finding and utilizing your power. It's entirely up to you. You owe it to those around you, as well as to yourself, to take action.

Find your superpower! But also find ways that power can benefit the great good of your homes, your classrooms, and the communities...THE WORLD... yes, your unique power is boundless.


You will find the Questions to Connections Guide for this episode on the word POWERFUL here! If you are new here, check out our Path to Meaningful Connections resource!

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