Understand Your Impact
We are entering a very busy time of year that is challenging for just about every educator in the country. Deadlines need to be met, uncertainty is in the air with next year's plans, and teachers are doing all they can to meet the needs of their students in the remaining weeks of the school year. Typically February, March, and April are difficult months with a fair amount of negativity in the air, as educators often ask, "Will winter ever come to an end, where am I going to be teaching, or even, will I have a job next year?" It is easy to get sucked into the end of the year busyness and stress: we sometimes need to be reminded why we are here.
There is also a certain amount of excitement with upcoming graduations, students finalizing choices for colleges, end of the year activities, and an overall buzz in the air. This year has been no exception at Epworth and Farley Elementary Schools, as students are expanding their learning on field trips, outdoor activities, and performances in the evenings. I was fortunate to teach 3rd grade for six years and 5th grade for a year before becoming a principal. The students that I taught have made their way to college while others are finishing or are in the middle of their high school experiences. During this time of year I get invited to a number of graduation parties of former students or players that I coached earlier in my career. I am honored to be invited to these celebrations, and do all that I can to attend. A couple of weeks ago I was given an invitation to a graduation party with a letter that absolutely made my day and caused me to reflect a great deal about what teaching is all about.
As I read this letter, I immediately thought back to Cheyenne's class and the experiences we had together. I really had no idea I had this type of impact on Cheyenne which got me thinking about an important question Jim Knight has written about in High Impact Instruction: A Framework for Great Teaching. Within the planning section of the book, Jim asks the question, "When thinking about planning, what do you want students to remember 5, 10, or 20 years from now?"
The content we teach in classrooms is extremely important, as we provide instruction to students which will equip them with various sets of skills to be successful in the future. Whether we are introducing a unit on comparative fractions or reviewing non-fiction reading strategies, a great deal of time is spent thinking and planning about how to deliver content, and the best ways to instruct, so students are able to learn as much as possible in the classroom. I am not underestimating this practice, nor am I devaluing it in any way, shape, or form.
Our content means absolutely nothing without a connection and deep relationship. I want the students at Epworth and Farley Elementary Schools to know that they are cared for, loved, challenged, and pushed to be better every day. I hope our kids know that they have an adult in their corner who will advocate for them while teaching valuable lessons about life. In this crazy, busy time of year, I challenge all educators to take a step back, slow down, and think about the impact they can have on students. We are in an amazing profession.