The original influencers

Being an influencer is as old as humankind. We are constantly under the influence of the people around us. The original influencers who have had the greatest effect on us have been our parents and teachers. They are the ones that spend the most time with developing children, so that makes sense.

4th grade

The first teacher to have a profound influence on me was my fourth grade teacher, Ms. Sinowski. She was a young woman with a gentle nature that emanated kindness. I was an extremely quiet kid and I loved Ms. Sinowski, probably to the level of schoolboy crush. She was kind and I wanted to make her happy. I wanted her to like me.

I remember a few things about that year. The first thing I remember is that Ms. S wrote a note on my report card saying she was concerned about the fact that I didn’t play with the other kids that much. This was true. I was the stereotypical, last kid picked. (Sometimes I was the never picked kid.) So, I spent a great deal of time on the swings and she noticed. She cared.

One day we were doing a project for her. She asked everyone to draw a picture using a compound word. (I’m guessing here, but that sounds right.). I drew a picture of french fries. My fries had little faces on them and were saying “wee wee”. (I was unaware I was spelling my French incorrectly.). I brought my work of art to Ms. S’s desk. She took one look at the picture and burst into laughter. Wow was I thrilled! Looking back on the experience, I think that part of me thought, “Hey, I can make people laugh. I’m funny!”.

The recorder

Part of the fourth grade curriculum included music class. And, music class in fourth grade meant playing the recorder. We were all working on music for a production that would take place later in the year. There would be a concert at the high school, but only the people who had passed off their music could perform. We had to do this by ourselves and for me, this was a problem.

As I have said, I was quiet. I was painfully shy and there was absolutely no way I was going to play by myself for someone. The deadline to play the music passed and I still had not played. One day as everyone was headed out for recess, Ms. S pulled me aside and said, “Eric, you haven’t played your recorder music for me.” I told her I didn’t know the music, but she wasn’t going to take no for an answer. So, I got my recorder from my desk and played for her.

When I finished playing Ms. S was beaming. She signed my paper that allowed me into the ‘big performance’. I remember thinking, “Maybe I’m good at making music.”.

The effect

I enjoyed playing in the combined concert. I still remember one of the songs, “Tall Tom, Tall Tom Jefferson. He can do it, yes he can….”. But, the concert really wasn’t the point. The point was the way Ms. S shaped my future. The way she influenced me.

The next year, fifth grade, we were asked if we wanted to learn to play an instrument. I jumped at the opportunity and began learning the trumpet. This led me to another great teacher/influencer, L. J. Hancock. I’ve been teaching and working in music all of my life and I give a great deal of that credit to my influential fourth grade teacher, Ms. Sinowski.

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