This is my 24th year teaching, and I am blessed to hear from students all the way back to my first class. Some of them have kept in touch through the years, and others have reconnected fairly recently. Social media have played a role in that, and I love it. Every so often a message pops up on Facebook with a familiar name asking, “Did you ever teach at ASJ?” I enjoy getting to see the paths they have taken and know I played even a small part in that.
I also love to hear what they remember from our class. It is often something very specific, something I don’t even remember doing or saying, but it obviously made a lasting impression on them. And that always makes me realize how everything I say and do within the classroom can build up or tear down a student.
I think I’ve done a fairly good job of building them up over the years. I know there are students that I just didn’t connect with, no matter what I did. Reality is, no teacher can be THE teacher for every student, but I try very hard to be a teacher they remember in a positive light.
I’m human, so I know I haven’t always accomplished that. Looking back, I can think of a few kids I truly failed. Some because I wanted them to fit my idea rather than be themselves, and some because I just didn’t know them well enough. I have to admit, there are times I’ve thought, “What if…” even years after a student has left my care.
I judge my success as a teacher, not on the test scores of my students, but on the box filled with cards, pictures, and thank yous; the emails and Facebook messages that pop up on my computer; and the graduation invitations, wedding invitations, and birth announcements that show up in my mailbox. These are the things that tell me I made a difference.
It’s easy to teach curriculum. The hard part is teaching the child.