One of the hardest things about being a teacher is wondering if I've made a difference. Every day as I reflect, I think about what I could do differently next time or what went well. I'm a pretty harsh critic of myself so I'm usually looking for things to improve. Did I make a difference today? Sometimes I just ask myself, "Did I survive today?"
Every year I find myself thinking I'm better than the last. That's great, I think! The only problem is this: I feel bad for the years before that I wasn't at my "best". I feel like I've let the past students down because I wasn't doing my best. What I have to convince myself is that I WAS doing my best, at that time. Teachers are supposed to get better every year. I just find myself feeling really bad for that group I started out with way back in 1994. They got me at the beginning. I couldn't have possibly had a clue back then. Poor kids.
The good news is, if I may use the great John Mellencamp's words, I was born in a small town and I live in a small town. Seriously, I run into former students all the time. They make me feel so good about my past teaching. I just ran into a former student over the weekend and he said he's going to be a doctor and he owes it to teachers who believed in him. Like me. I also ran into another student who said he loved my class. I've had students tell me they love to read because of me. (SUCCESS!) I've had students remind me of things I never remembered I did, but they remembered.
I do make a difference. It's small sometimes, but it's always meaningful. I will always strive to be better and realize that I'm always doing my best at that moment. Hopefully students will remember things about me and tell their kids about how I made a difference somehow! Actually, they already ARE telling their kids about me. I'm teaching the kids of former students. Now to figure out how time has passed by so fast......