Seeing Potential

This summer I was in builder, fixer upper mode. Annelle shared a couple of projects we had put on the back-burner and off I was! One of my proudest projects from the summer was the two-level filing cabinet.

Annelle’s farm records were starting to pile up and when we went to look at the price of a new filing cabinet we were floored. The cheapest we could find was for $174! What?! Nope, not doing that. At school they were doing summer cleaning and tossing out old filing cabinets, picked up a rough looking blue one and brought it home.


After a little Pinterest research and color shopping at Menards with Annelle, we had the vision of what this little filing cabinet could be! Then it was to work on sanding, surface prep, replacing handles, picking a surface wood, etc. The rough looking picture above to the finished product below shows the complete transformation that occurred:


It was a rewarding project, first, because we saved over $100, but also the pure satisfaction of witnessing a transformation from a rough looking file cabinet to the final champagne-pink, walnut stained wood topped filing cabinet that is a part of our home decor. We saw the potential and we acted on the potential of that little filing cabinet.

Recently, I was asked by a colleague about how I could continue to see the potential in my students and not be discouraged when they didn’t see it in themselves? This was an interesting question and I’ll be honest it was almost a knee-jerk reaction of saying the normal platitudes of “well that’s what we need to be doing as educators…”. Yet, I felt that simply parroting those sentiments may not be fully accurate to what I really felt either. So we discussed it a little further. As our conversation deepened I could feel the excitement build as we drew connections to examples of when we saw potential in ourselves to start.

As an educator seeing potential in others REALLY does start with seeing the potential in ourselves. How can we give to others what we do not have for our own selves?

We have the POTENTIAL to help others!

We have the POTENTIAL to impact others positively!

We have the POTENTIAL to make a difference!

Now, do we believe that? Are we willing to not only see it, but are we willing to ACT upon it?

Sure the filing cabinet had potential…but before I could realize the potential of the filing-cabinet I needed to realize I had the potential to do something in the first place with that filing cabinet. It would have been easy to say:

“Yeah, I’ve never been really good at painting, better not…”

“Too bad I suck at sanding wood, I’ll just buy new…”

“I don’t have the time to make this project worth it, anyways it’ll never turn out as good as I want it, Annelle better just be happy with what she gets…”

As ridiculous as those statements above sound, they were fleeting thoughts throughout the process…glad I didn’t listen to them! Often, in education we hear the same self-inflicting doubts…

“It isn’t worth holding Amy accountable…she doesn’t care anyways…plus it will just create more of a hassle for me and I don’t have time right now…”

“I know John could do better than this on the project…oh well…if he wasn’t willing to give it a go the first time, obviously he doesn’t really want to get anything out of this project…”

“Today was rough, I’m not making any headway with these students…why do I even bother…maybe I’m just not cutout to be an educator…”

I’d be lying if I said that these same thoughts have not came in fleeting stages during my time as an educator. Yet, these thoughts and others like them are what keeps us as educators isolated, worn-down, and saps that fire away from us as potential seekers!

We need to depart from the “short-term hero mentality” we have towards education and realize that potential is ONLY realized by the person themselves.

We cannot force potential upon others, but we can live out the potential of our own lives that illustrates vividly and teaches others that they too can live out the potential in their lives!

Yes, we need to support and love our students and colleagues, but if we do not support or love ourselves than in the moments where we are disheartened by those we care about failing to see potential in theirselves, we will NOT take it personally or feel we are to blame.

As educators we get the long-term gift of seeing our students grow and mature into adulthood. I’ve only been in the profession for six years, but I’m filled with joy when a former student swings by to check-in and shares all that is going on in their lives. They realized the potential in their lives and they are acting on it!

We are each in various stages of our growth and journey…we are each that craftsman staring at the rough, unfinished filing cabinet we can call our lives and profession…

I see the potential…do you?

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