Through the Eyes of an Educator: Your Impact Makes a Difference

by Stacey Ebert / May 03, 2021 /
Stacey Ebert's picture

When Harry Potter received the gift of his invisibility cloak, the note attached proclaimed, “use it well.” Perhaps that’s a message from which we can all benefit. It’s possible that it also pertains to far more than that invisibility cloak that may or may not be hanging in each of our closets. Perhaps, for both the muggles and magic folk of the world, ‘use it well’ applies to our impact, our attitude, and our choices. That impact resonates. It echoes in how we treat people, how we connect, how we enter the world, and how we leave the spaces and people with whom we interact. Your impact matters—how will you use it?

Water droplet. From Through the Eyes of an Educator: Your Impact Makes a Difference

In what seems like the ‘before times,’ when travel was a thing into which we dove headfirst, do you remember what it felt like to show up in a new space for the very first time? That first impression of the cacophony of sound, the enticing aroma, a whiff of wonder, and a desire to wander aimlessly to take it all in, get lost, and take it all again...remember? 

Like many travelers, I’ve left my heart in places around the globe and have been fully changed by strangers and experiences in a multitude of spaces. Kindness, grace, compassion, helpfulness, awe, inspiring attitudes, resilience, grit, and so many other character strengths are ones that flit daily across my memory, reminding me of the impacts that continue to transform my everyday life. Whether it’s the place, the stranger, the friend, the hero, the villain, the student, the teacher, the onlooker, the situation, the intention, the authenticness, or one of a billion others (including you!), that impact is a game changer. What do you want yours to be on the world?

Throughout this global pandemic, our worlds have often felt as if they’ve shrunk. With borders closed, travel constrained, and friends and loved ones kept at an arm’s length, it can feel as if that impact can actually lessen—when in fact, it’s potentially possible that the truth is the complete opposite. If you’ve been privileged to internet and wifi access, perhaps your world has grown. Digital content has exploded, international museums and music gurus offered access that prior to the pandemic seemed impossible. The world of virtual opened up ways to attend events, stay in contact with long lost family and friends, and offer a helping hand with compassion while still maintaining a safe physical distance in a time of urgency. 

Conversations and connections impact. 

Each little moment ripples. Like a growing riptide or shifting current, the remnants of each act, each moment of impression leaves its mark. It’s that mark that can change the world. 

Water droplet. From Through the Eyes of an Educator: Your Impact Makes a Difference

When we’re young, we’re reminded that we never get a second chance to redo a first impression. I remember the initial moment of awe as I stepped off the plane in Israel for that first time, I can literally feel the joy encompass my whole soul remembering when I got to first snuggle a koala, and the tears flood my eyes when I recall the help that came from everywhere to assist my community in need after a devastating hurricane. Students, teachers, travelers, and all humans get the amazing chance to continue to make that impact daily—and without even looking, that impact remains for years to come. As a former teacher, I count myself lucky to be in contact with former students and club officers from my past years in high school. As a former camper, I am grateful that those counselors who changed my world at thirteen are still in my life today. As a traveler, I am honored that those I met on the road and with whom I shared perspective-changing experiences continue to make a difference in the world today. And, as a human, I am awed by the compassionate spirit of others who open their hearts to those in need, and walk the world daily doing their very best to be a good human. 

Today’s global youth community continues to inspire me. Their zeal, spirit, and ability to look beyond themselves is, by any standard, most impressive. As we try to see the future beyond the throes of this global pandemic, a re-emergence of global cooperation, impactful change in our minds and actions; we must act with that impact in the forefront of our minds. Stacy Abrams’ impact will be felt for generations to come. Harvey Milk’s efforts changed the lives of millions. Mia Hamm’s powerful endeavors shifted the conversation and attention of sport far beyond the field. Katherine Johnson quite literally helped open doors to discovery. Margaret Sanger’s name may not roll trippingly off your tongue, but her actions and impact continue to make life-saving differences for the world’s population. 

We must honor our commitment to humanity, goodness, positive change, and the act of making a difference, and work to compel today’s generations and the next to come with the fervor of Greta Thunberg, the compassion of Malala Yousafzai, and the fierce fortitude of Emma Gonzales. It is our jobs as parents, teachers, counselors, travelers, and humans to use our impact as a force for change, for good, for justice. 

There is no act too small.  

Each day, we get the chance to begin again. Each day, we have the ability to make our impact felt. Each time we interact with spaces and people, we leave an indelible mark. What do you want yours to be? How do you want to be remembered? 

Your impact makes a difference. Use it well. 

Six mindful steps to cultivate a positive impact 

Rain hitting water. From Six mindful steps to cultivate a positive impact

Think of yourself as part of a global community

We are all a part of a global community—yet on a daily basis, we’re surrounded by a constant narrower focus. While it is imperative to be a good family member, kind friend and neighbor, helpful stranger, compassionate community member, and educated citizen, we can easily lose sight of the knowledge that each of us is a tiny part of a far greater world. 

Each impactful interaction—each impactful choice and action–matters. 

Whether aiming to make a change locally or globally, keep in mind that all are in some way interconnected. A choice to eliminate our use of one-use plastics in our town eventually impacts our oceans and that greater world. A chance to make our schools more equitable and inclusive extends far beyond the doors of the building. A choice to elevate voices that have too often been silenced goes far beyond an individual voice, making waves in the global community. Choosing to right wrongs and continue to actively fight injustices reaches far beyond the individual situation at hand, ricocheting beyond borders. Each bit of positive impact increases positive interpersonal outcomes in the greater world.

Choose right over easy

Time and again, we see that often choosing right, just, and fair isn’t easy. It’s incredibly unfortunate that it’s often an uphill battle, that there are loud voices attempting to drown out the noise of progress, and that sometimes, in the efforts to be on the side of right, we can find ourselves pitted against those we love. Whether on a small scale or large, choosing right can be a difficult path. From an early age, we see it. It’s in decisions we make, like how to engage that playground bully, how to intervene when a classmate is under duress, how to step up when an irate individual is ranting hateful speech at a stranger, how to fight for positive change and progress against systemic injustices, and finding a way to help distanced communities under siege. 

Oftentimes, doing what is right can be uncomfortable and challenging, but the personal, communal, human, and far-reaching impact is ALWAYS worth it.  

Elevate voices everywhere

There’s room at the table, and all are welcome. Regularly we fight social justice issues that aim to limit the rights and voices of billions around the globe. Your impact can change that. Aim to elevate voices, aim to stay quiet when necessary, and learn to actively listen to another’s experience. With each action, our impact is wide ranging. Each time we invite someone in, each time we share a story different to our own, each time we point to the experts in a different area whose life experience is different from ours, the world gets a little better, a little more open. It’s up to each and every one of us to share stories and truly hear them when they are. Each time we aim for a more equitable, accessible, diverse, and inclusive world, we get better. Each action we make to not only open a door but to work to make sure that those standing in front of it can no longer block the path, we get better. 

The work is ours to do; the impact will be felt for years to come. Stand up for one another— share the mic. 

Know that each small step leads to great change

There’s no such thing as a small step; every step counts. With each action, each choice, each encounter, the ripple effects take hold. As a teacher, counselor, parent, or friend, it’s potentially possible that we’ll never grasp the full impact of our interactions. The talk we have, the values we impart, the kindness we show, the active listening we employ, the efforts we make, the choices we share—we may never know the fullest impact, but none go unnoticed. 

Years later, award show winners thank teachers, great leaders invite mentors to graduations, talk show hosts shower gifts on people in recognition of their actions, campers reach out to counselors decades later to thank them for their guidance that literally changed their life trajectory, first responders, military, and civilian heroes save people and communities from harm, paving the way for both to grow, and everyday citizens empower communities and take to heart the compassion and kindness of someone’s good works. 

With each act of kindness, each act of intention, each step forward, we can be the change we wish to see.

Learn when to speak and when to listen

For whatever reason, we seem to be programmed to listen to react; we can change that. With the intent to listen to understand, our lives instantly expand. Cultivating the ability to open our ears without the reactive need to open our mouths takes work. There’s value in listening without response. 

Try active listening practices. Test it out with your friends, engage your family in your quest to enhance your understanding, and slowly, we will all get better at learning when it is time to listen and when it is time to speak. The ripples of this action impact more than one conversation, more than one relationship, and over time, allow each practitioner to gain a greater understanding of one another’s experiences—thereby increasing compassion for a wider world. 

Aim to be a good human

We know that it’s not always easy; sometimes it feels downright hard. Sometimes it feels like you’re swimming upstream! No matter how it feels, you’re never alone. Keeping the common good in mind can never be wrong, and there are billions strong who believe and work daily for the same mission. 

We are all part of a shared humanity. Our experiences are different, yet must be equally valued. While our histories may differ, our humanity is shared. Children witness interdependence and interconnectedness early on. Perhaps it’s witnessed when one person brings the toys to the sandbox and shares with others. Perhaps it’s sharing lunch with a classmate who doesn’t have any. Perhaps it’s when someone falls down and a stranger assists. Perhaps it’s when there’s a fire in a community and neighbors come to help. Perhaps it’s seeing a puppy in need and donating blankets, time, or offering a home. Or perhaps it’s when one group or part of the world is struggling, and whatever we can do, we do. 

There are endless ways to make a positive difference in the world—what can you do? Kindness, compassion, activism, gratitude, resilience, and grit only begin to scratch the surface of character strengths good humans employ regularly. 

Our paths may be different, yet our shared humanity unites. How will you make a positive impact today? 

colorful fractal. From Through the Eyes of an Educator: Your Impact Makes a Difference

 

 

Stacey Ebert, our Educational Travels Editor, is a traveler at heart who met her Australian-born husband while on a trip in New Zealand. Stacey was an extracurricular advisor and taught history in a Long Island public high school for over fifteen years, enjoying both the formal and informal educational practices. After a one year 'round the world honeymoon, travel and its many gifts changed her perspective. She has since left the educational world to focus on writing and travel. She is energetic and enthusiastic about long term travel, finding what makes you happy and making the leap. In her spare time she is an event planner, yogi, dark chocolate lover, and spends as much time as possible with her toes in the sand.

 

Check out her website at thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com for more of her travel musings.