How I Make A Difference
I was at dinner once with a bunch of people, most of whom I did not know. We were all in college at the time, and so we were talking about school and majors and so forth. The girl across the table asked me what my major was. I replied that it was English Education. I told her I was planning to become an English teacher. Without a trace of sarcasm, she said, “Oh, that’s noble.”
I wanted to punch her in the face.
I did not get into this profession for nobility; I do not have a bleeding heart; I don’t believe that I will completely change the world. I got into it because I love the subject of English; I stayed in it because I love interacting with students every day, because I love the variety, because I get to talk all day about writing and books.
I harbor no grandiose visions of myself as a role model who will one day revolutionize the country. My goal is much smaller in scale: I want to positively affect one person a year for each year that I teach. If I stay in the profession until the golden age (in California sixty-one and a half), then I will have taught for thirty-seven years. That’s a minimum of thirty seven people I hope to positively impact. That’s not too shabby.
Teachers have an immense amount of responsibility, and they’re working with a mostly reluctant clientele and a general lack of support from the public. A big deal has been made of teacher accountability in the past decade. I agree that teachers must be accountable. But so must parents and so must students. I can only do so much with my students for the hour a day that I have them for the one hundred and eighty days of school each year. The canker is not in the heart of most teachers; it’s in the attitude we have as a society: we are entirely focused upon product and not process (more on this in another blog). The most accelerated brain development happens from zero to five, before teachers can even get a crack at those brains. So step up, parents.
It’s a frustrating profession for the reasons above and also because there are times when I feel like I am shouting into the wind. I wonder whether my voice is floating away unheard into oblivion. Teachers do not get to see the products of their endeavors–unless students come back years later. But I know, from personal experience, that teachers do make an impact. I am in this profession thanks to the teachers that I had, both good and bad. Yes, we’ve all had bad teachers, horrible teachers who have made us feel small and stupid and insignificant. And I learned so much about the teacher I want to be by watching these teachers along with the great ones.
I do make a difference. This I know. And when I go to bed at night, I can sleep easy knowing that I have done my small part to make the world a little better, one student at a time.
I only have thirty-one more years to go. I better step it up.