Imagine an instance when you were 100% excited about making a difference for kids, the moment you were most enthusiastic about being a teacher. It might be right now, or it may have been a while since you felt that way. Remember the time you totally believed you would change your students’ lives? Take a sheet of paper and cut out a heart (yes, red paper would be nice). That was your heart for teaching at that moment. And now, I want you to think about what has happened since then:
!You read the fiftieth news story about how overpaid teachers are. (Go ahead, rip off a piece of the heart and throw it on the floor. That’s how it felt, right?)
!You poured your heart and soul into the student everyone said was a lost cause, only to have the parents come to school and berate you for not doing enough. (Rip off another piece.)
!A teacher told you it was nice that you had all these ideas about helping kids but that it’s really all about the test scores. (Rrrrrrrrip!)
!Extra duties and paperwork seem to fill all the extra times. (Rip!)
!You were told that you can’t take the kids on a field trip because it wasn’t “instructional.” (Rip.)
How much of your heart is left? You may feel like you need a heart transplant. I had periods of time when I felt disheartened, particularly at the end of my first year of teaching. I also had days when I started the morning full of energy and passion and excitement, but by 10 a.m. the problems dragged me down. There were days when it seemed like it didn’t really matter if I tried, put forth extra effort, did a really great activity instead of a worksheet, or tried for the hundredth time to reach that student. I tried to make a difference, but Roger still got in a fight. I did everything possible, but Brittany still didn’t bring her homework. I communicated with parents, but they still said it was my fault that their child wasn’t learning. You probably also have days when you ask, “Is it worth the effort? Am I making a difference?” Let me assure you, you do make a difference. However, one of the most difficult aspects of being a teacher is that we sometimes don’t see the results of our efforts. It’s like planting an apple tree in your backyard, and discovering you are moving away at the end of the year. Full growth won’t be evident until after you are gone. You dug the hole, planted the tree, watered it, added fertilizer and some TLC, but because it takes 3 to 5 years for an apple tree to grow to full height, someone else will enjoy the apples. Teaching is exactly like that. You invest lots of time, energy, and passion today, but you have to trust that the fruits of your labor will flourish some- time in the future. You do the work and you trust there is a benefit in the future. It’s important that every single day, you keep the faith. Your kids watch you; they read your moods; and they notice what you wear, what you say, and even sometimes what you think! And every single day, every single moment, remember, “On your worst day, you are still someone’s best hope.” You are still their teacher. You—and you alone—are the key to someone learning today.