On a Snowy Day in February: Reflections on the Power of Teaching
Looking out from inside my cozy warm room last week, the falling snow had a quieting effect, almost creating a monastic silence as it blanketed everything it covered. Its peacefulness created a reflective mood for a former school administrator who once saw snow as a disruptor of schedules, a demander of the ultimate decision: whether it would be a two-hour delay or full-out “snow day.” But on this snowy day, an unexpected email from a former student of more than 40 years ago gave me pause to reflect. It was a complimentary message, but more than that, it was humbling.
His message was to say, “Thank you.” He wanted me to know how much he appreciated all the demands that I placed on the students in my high school senior English class, from writing research papers, to creating an original poem in iambic pentameter, to giving a memorized speech in public speaking. He even mentioned the dreaded anxiety of taking the “blue book” exams to prepare for the rigors of college and indicated this was more than was expected of a “kid from the hood.” He went on to say that this made a lasting impression on him, then shared that he went on to college, received his doctorate, and now is a professor at an Ivy League university.
I share this anecdote not for any personal aggrandizement. My story is just one of many experienced by those who have answered the call to be teachers. I share this as an affirmative reminder to all of my colleagues that your role in the classroom is extremely powerful, impressionable, and long lasting. The work that you do is significant, meaningful, and does make a difference.
You are the bridge that helps student cross over from ignorance to knowledge. You are the spark that ignites the flame of the students’ intellect—of wanting to know more. For many students, you are their only hope for affirmation and belief in their abilities. As renowned educator Dr. Rita Pierson once noted, “Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.” That is what you do as a teacher.
No matter how long you have been in the classroom, whether three years or thirty, there is always the cloud of doubt that haunts. There are those days when you question just how effective you are, whether what you are doing is worth it, and if you are really making any positive impact. Most times teachers are not granted the luxury to see the end result of their efforts, which is the nature of a teaching vocation. But it does not diminish the good that you have accomplished; it does not discount the students who are better individuals because of what you have instilled in them.
Never underestimate the inextricable connection that you have created between you and your students. Henry Adams put it most pointedly, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” You are that educator—there is a student you have touched who is grateful for having had you in his/her life.
Thank you for saying yes!