I was very sorry to hear this week of the passing of a colleague of of mine
I was lucky enough to know Marshall McMahon outside of school and have fond memories of talking education with him longer after he had retired and really, should no longer care. He had lots to offer about what the future of education look like and how we could shape schools to places of real learning and how kids could be involved in the process and even how technology could be used to accelerate this.
It got me thinking about what’s the impact of an educator. If you think about Marshal he had been teaching for about 50 years. If an average teacher teaches about 350 students a year, that’s a lot of kids to have an impact on. Then, think he was a Principal who inspired teachers to have an impact on their students. And we’ll known to have been an exceptional one. I’ve spoke to a few people that knew him, and Marshall tells the story himself about how he jumped into a car to drive to a young mans home, sometimes 4 or 5 hours away, to be present for a student where there was a family death, or some other issue of high enough concern to know that he was needed. I’ve heard this story a number of times from different people. The story always changed slightly, until one day I realised it was because it was a number of different stories. I know men who have said that Marshall had impacted their lives so greatly that they would not have been alive if not for him.
I know he was present once at a pivotal moment for me and I don’t think that I would still be teaching today if not for some kind words he said to me once.
It makes me think about the significant impact that we have on children in schools. Where a passing comment that you, as a teacher, don’t realise can have such a great consequence…the ability to lift someone and make their day, or equally to crush them. What unintentional, mostly unknown and unintended impact we have on young people.
If teachers knew the consequence that they had on young people, I wonder how their language would change? Would “this isn’t good enough” become “I know you can do better”? Would the “it’s not worth having the argument” become “why haven’t you don’t your homework”? Would your perspective change if you knew what the student woke up to? That a cheery good morning as they come through the front gate might be the best part of their day?
Think about the 17,500 students that Marshall would have taught as an average teacher in his life….and what impact you might have on each one.