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The Power of Influence

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on September 7, 2012
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School is back in session. Four days down, and I can honestly say I’m exhausted. I forgot how tired I get after teaching all day. This first week has been quite the eye-opener.

Yesterday, someone said in an off-hand way after asking about the start of the year, “You’ll be a good influence on the kids.”

Influence them? I’m supposed to educate them, prepare them for high school, and remind them there is a difference between there, their, and they’re.

But the comment kept sneaking around in my mind all evening, and I really began to consider how we influence others. How do we compel others to change, to alter their opinions or shift their focus? It’s awesome, if you think about it. Where does the power come from? At school, it won’t really matter how much preparation I put into my lessons because I think influence comes from the following three situations:

1) Love. If someone loves you, influencing them will be much easier than if they dislike you. Animosity causes people to reject your ideas no matter how valid they may be. Wouldn’t you be more willing to consider an issue from someone else’s perspective if you loved them?

I know some of my new students will love me. One year a boy said as he left my room, “Bye! I love you!” Yes, I realize it was said out of habit. He probably said the same to his mom when he left his house every morning, but it was still nice to hear.

Unfortunately, some kids won’t feel any love in their hearts towards me. It makes me sad when I can’t build a relationship with any student, but usually one or two escape me every year. Those are the ones I will not be able to influence with love.

2) Respect. I was reared to respect people older than me, people who hold positions of authority, and people who spend their time serving others. My classroom rules read, “Respect yourself. Respect others. Respect the school. If you do those things, no other rules are necessary.” It’s true, but don’t we all know someone who doesn’t show respect?

I have to admit, a lot of my students don’t care about my age or role in the classroom. Without respect, my ideas don’t sway them and are sometimes immediately rejected without consideration. Even though I’m acting for the benefit of their education and their future, they refuse to be influenced by anything I say or do.

3) Imbalance of power. Being influenced – or forced – by someone else’s strength, position, or some other attribute may change my mind, but it basically eliminates any possibility of me ever feeling love or respect toward the person who has caused the shift in my action. I think everyone feels this way when it comes to brute force. We may have to comply, but we don’t have to like it.

Using my position of authority to force a student to do (or quit doing) something creates tension and ill-will. I have to admit, some days I feel like it’s my only option with certain kids, but I pray the relationships I build with my students are strong enough to influence them through love and respect.

Clint Eastwood once said, “It takes tremendous discipline to control the influence, the power you have over other people’s lives.” I hope I have the discipline to do so because each of my students is an extraordinary individual with the potential to grow even more amazing. I am so blessed, honored, burdened, and overwhelmed to be a part of such an incredible experience.

What other factors do you think contribute to influence? 


2 Responses to 'The Power of Influence'

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  1. Linden, this is an excellent reflective post. Perhaps, what was said in on off-handed manner, but you chose to soak it in, reflect on what it meant to you, and share. I am grateful.


    • Thanks, Ivon! Sometimes off-hand remarks are the most honest and revealing, don’t you think? Thanks for commenting! Have a great day!

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