Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Impact We Make

As I prepare to begin another school year, I feel the excitement welling up inside. Our class lists were posted this week. I poured over each of my three classes. Seeing some names that are familiar, some names that I don't know a face to tie it to, yet. I felt the flutter of excitement. Wondering what this year would bring. How long it would take to feel that amazing bond of community. Would they love reading first, or writing? Could I help them grow as much as I wanted? Where to start?

When I teach, I become a story teller. I share stories I have heard about authors to help sell their books. I confide stories about when I've messed up to let my students know they are not alone. I bare my soul and tell them the fears and joys of being a parent so that they will understand their own a little better. I find stories in videos and articles online, picture books and chapter books in my room, that open up the discussion for stories of character. To try and help my students become the best version of themselves that they can. And I hope, and spend many hours praying, that they heard me. Heard any of the stories that they needed to hear. I hope that whatever story they were meant to get wormed its way into their brain and they can come back to it later. 

Teaching is an odd job. It reminds me of parenting in many ways. You pour all of this energy into these people in front of you for a year and hope that you helped them. Sometimes I can see that I did. A child changes in our year together. It is obvious. But often, you don't know the impact you've made. Like parenting, it is seen years later. And that can be tough. 

I'm one of the lucky ones. In a town the size of mine, I see these kids from the moment they enter into my class through their graduation from high school. I don't see them daily, of course, but I can visit with them on and off through the years. I watch them go through middle school as they work on figuring out who they are. Then they move on to high school and find groups of friends that celebrate them. They start to make plans for the future, thinking of what they want to become. I watch them graduate, grins stretched across their faces, tears in the eyes of their parents, and I marvel at how quickly time has passed. It is incredible. 

But because I am here, I also get to see the impact that the teachers in their lives have made. My former students will share. Through emails, messages on social media, conversations when passing in the street, they tell me. Good and bad, we make an impact. They remember the kind teacher in Kindergarten who dried their tears when they wanted to go home. The gruff teacher in the middle grades who made them realize they were being lazy. The teacher in high school who inspired them by their passion for the subject. That made them have the desire to major in it themselves in college. 

This is not a role I take lightly. We will be remembered, and we get to choose what that looks like. Long ago, I made that choice. I knew I wanted my students to remember me as a teacher that cared who they were, a teacher who believed in them, a teacher who thought reading and writing were important because it makes us more aware of ourselves and the world around me. So, I tell stories. I bare my soul. I cry with my students, laugh with them, hug them, and go home and cry for the ones I can't reach. It is hard.

This week I got to see the names of the sixty-eight kids I will be spending the next school year with. I also hugged a former student who was starting her senior year. Spoke words of confidence to several students getting ready to begin middle school. Sat on my front porch and talked to boys who I taught a few years ago. Exchanged emails with students who were heading to high school. In each exchange, I was blessed to see the impact that we make. It wasn't always visible in the year I had with them, but in hindsight, I can see it. 

As you prepare to start another year with the students who will fill up your classroom, I encourage you to take a moment and think of the impact you will make. You might not see the results of your work this year, but they will be there. Speak to their hearts. They are waiting to be filled up. Have a wonderful school year.