Education is the most gratifying career I can think of. Since you are reading this post, I think you know that too. That’s because you’re an educator. You recognize that every day is an opportunity to touch the hearts and minds of the kids, colleagues, and the community you serve. You are essential. You are writing your own legacy and choosing how you will be remembered by influencing the lives of others in the most intentional ways. Every interaction you are living, big and small matters. A simple moment in time that may be a microcosm of your day, could have the possibility of leaving a lasting impression on others. The idea that the people who have crossed your path could take a piece of you with them is special.
You’re an educator. Your presence exudes inspiration and the measure of your impact knows no bounds. How many other careers have the potential to leave a lasting impression and influence how people approach their future? In the book Because of a Teacher, I shared, “When you make an effort to intentionally connect with people, you pave the way to hidden pathways of opportunity that can positively impact your future.” You recognize that the connections you intentionally build make your work matter. Those connections open doors for students to shape the minds of future leaders, innovators, and change agents. It’s because you’re an educator, you care about your students’ interests. You embed those interests into your practice so your students can find their passions, are propelled to achieve greatness, and overcome any obstacles they will face.
You’re an educator. You have the tremendous responsibility of creating safe spaces in your classrooms and instilling a sense of belonging so that students feel seen, heard and valued. In the book Safe, Seen, and Stretched in the Classroom, Julie Schmidt Hasson shared “It occurred to me that making a difference in students’ lives wasn’t just about helping them feel safe. It was also about making them feel seen. It was about demonstrating through actions that students are worthy of their teacher’s time and attention.” With your unwavering commitment, you are establishing classroom cultures of mutual trust and respect where students lead with an empathetic lens, feel more connected to each other, take ownership over their learning, and unlock their full potential.
Recently, I was walking the halls of a school building during transition time. Since I no longer have a classroom to call my own, I use this as an opportunity to connect with students and colleagues because I am still an educator. As I was walking, I heard a student calling my name. She looked awfully familiar, but I admit, I couldn’t exactly place where I had interacted with her before. I turned around and my smile met hers. “Hi, how is your day going?” I immediately asked, feeling excited that there are students who still know my name. “It’s been an interesting day, Mrs. Kaufman,” she responded looking a little deflated. “Would you like to share a little more with me?” I responded carefully inviting her to elaborate. “Yes, I would, I wanted to talk to you about something. When I saw you, I wanted to share something because I remember you telling me that you were a reading teacher when you visited my classroom a few months ago.”
I quickly went through my file cabinet of interactions as this interaction DID seem familiar. Yes! I suddenly recalled that while I was conducting a formal observation in a classroom, this student and I had a chat. This is not unusual for me because when I go into classrooms, I like to speak with the students and teachers. Rather than being “that stranger” in the room who is documenting a lesson, I like to be a part of it.
The student went on to share, “Today, I officially have an IEP. I am not sure how I feel about it. Sometimes I struggle with understanding what I’m reading. Can you give me some advice, Mrs. Kaufman?” she responded. I paused for a moment and thought about how deeply moved and privileged I felt that this student wanted to include me in her reflection and seek my feedback. “Well, right now I am seeing a learner who is reflective and cares about her personal growth. I see you as a student who will not let this define you because you will use this as a tool to highlight your strengths and be even more intentional about working towards your goals. You are in charge of your learning!” That deflated look that this student had seconds before turned into a smile of gratitude and relief. “Thank you, Mrs. Kaufman. You must have been a great teacher.” My heart sank for a moment, longing for the teaching moments I had experienced when I was able to interact with students more regularly. When I replied, I started letting go of that feeling and I suddenly felt a sense of pride and purpose in the reminder that my role as an educator extends beyond the physical classroom and into the lives of my students. “I’ll always be a teacher.”
You’re an educator. Your influence will always extend far beyond the classroom walls and into the hearts and minds of those you touch. Keep striving to be intentional in your interactions, and know that you are making a difference in the world. Rest assured that your legacy will be felt for years to come. Stay in the work that matters. We need you.