Assessing My Impact


For those who don’t know, I’m an elementary school teacher.  I’ve been doing it for five years now.  In September, I’ll be starting year 6.

For the past three years, I’ve been teaching French and Prep (arts classes, mostly) at the same two schools, switching back and forth every day.

And it’s been exhausting.

This past year, I was completely convinced that I wasn’t teaching anyone anything at all.  I was completely certain that no one was listening, no one cared, and that the few who were the exception to that rule were getting lost in the shuffle because I stopped caring around March.  They weren’t listening, nothing seemed to be sinking in, and quite frankly, they didn’t seem like they cared.  I did the absolute best that I could not to check out and quit doing my best for them, because I am truly passionate about seeing a desire for an ability to speak French fostered in kids; I think it’s really important.

In May, I decided that at the risk of complete burnout, I had to listen to my heart and take a break from what I’d been doing.  An opportunity came up at one of my two schools to take a full time position teaching Primary Science, Social Studies, some Arts, and JK/SK Phys. Ed.  It’ll be different, but I’m REALLY excited about it.  It’s the break I’ve been looking for.

I dreaded one part.

I had to tell those precious kids I’ve been teaching French to for the last three years that I’m leaving them.  For my 4s, 5s, and 6s…. I am the only French teacher they’ve had.  Whether that’s good or bad, my jury’s still out on that one.  To be truthful, they may need a break as much as I do, they just don’t realize it.

I told them this morning.

And those kids… the ones I thought weren’t listening at all… the ones I had concluded wouldn’t care if I left……….. guess what?  They cared.

I hear rumours that there were tears.  One texted her Mom (she shouldn’t have her cell phone out!!!).  One told me, and I quote, “this is like that time my Mom said we were going for ice cream and she dropped me off at boarding school!!!”  Me:  “Are you for real!?”   Her:  “No.  I’m not.”

Here’s the thing though.  The kid that I figured couldn’t care less because he doesn’t really listen to me, a grade 5 boy who I’ve struggled with at varying degrees in the two years he’s been my student, he cared a lot.  It hit me really hard this morning, because he’s grown on me a lot this year.  Not that I didn’t like him before, he’s hilarious and very bright, and incredibly witty… I can’t compete with him, even at 10 years old.  He just has a special place in my heart even though he’s tricky to teach.

This morning, he told me in numerous different ways that I’m not allowed to leave.  He told me he was going to go door to door in the neighbourhood asking every couple to adopt a kid between the ages of grade 4 and 8 so that we’d have enough kids to make sure I had a full time job there.  Later, he told me that I now live at the school, am not allowed to leave, and if I try, he’ll get his Dad’s jeep and attach the chains to my car, because “your Matrix won’t have the torque to get away from my Dad’s jeep.  You’ll be stuck here.”

I tell you these things not to brag about how much my students evidently like me, but to express my shock that my impact is that significant in the lives of these kids.

So as I titled my post, “Assessing My Impact,” I’m left wondering — how much of an impact is it possible to have when I think I’m being ineffective and useless?  And how much, if any, am I really making if I feel like I’m on top of my game?

I don’t really have answers, but they’re interesting points to ponder.

That time I was literally dragged across a finish line…


Picture this:

It’s a gloomy, dark, drizzly, humid Sunday morning in June.  Your alarm goes off at 6 am and you so badly want to just smack it and roll back over and go back to sleep.

But you don’t.

You drag your tired butt out of bed, regretting not going to bed sooner, knowing you had to be up at 6.  You put on your knee length yoga capris, a moisture wicking tshirt, moisture wicking socks, a lightweight jacket, because it’s raining, and you scramble all over the house looking for your hat, but you can’t find it.  You’ve become that crazy person who gets up on Sunday mornings at 6am to run.

That was me this morning.  I was up super early, because I was being picked up at 7 to go run a race.  A 3km race.  I ran a 5k last month, and so I figured I had this.  If I can run a 5, I can surely run a 3.  The plan/goal when I signed up for the 3 was to run as valiantly and expediently throughout the month between the two races as I could manage, in order to build up speed.  I don’t think I need to explain why I was displeased with my 10:47 pace time on the 5k race.  I mean, I finished my first race without puking or crying, so that’s a plus, but training harder yields faster running, and I didn’t do that.  So with this race, like so many other things I’m determined to do, I was determined to be faster.  I was going to do “sprintervals” and work my way under a 9 minute kilometre.

That was the plan.

Except… I’m a lazy bum.  So I ran once in this past month… and on that one run, I fell off the treadmill.  That’s a funny story in itself……

So here’s my revelation, because I didn’t get this blog post mulling in my brain this morning because I wanted to gripe that I’m lazy.  No one wants to read that, and I don’t want that to be the only point of this post.

I totally understand why Christianity is compared to running the race and pushing onward toward the prize.  Paul, your imagery makes perfect sense.

Running isn’t easy.  You can’t do it well when you don’t train and practice.  You end up out of breath, cramped, and wanting to puke on even the smallest of distances.  You can’t fill your body with garbage and then expect it to perform well when it counts.  Welcome to my morning.

Because it would detract from the entire point of this post, I’m not going to try to say that it was all ok just because my pace was faster than my last race.  I finished my 3k race in 28:08, with a pace of 9:47.  That’s 1:01 faster (pace-wise) than last time.  That’s great.  Except that I walked a good half of the race, and so my pace would have kept slipping throughout the rest of a 5k, and I’m quite certain that I wouldn’t have come out any better than the first time through if I’d run a 5… in fact, my pace likely would have been slower.

But here’s the cool part.

I came to the re-entry point into the stadium grounds, and my iPod said I had 200 metres to go, but the sign about 50m ahead of me said I had 355.6 metres to go… my iPod is a liar and a jerk.  I psyched myself up.  I had been walking for a bit on account of this mega cramp.  My internal dialogue went something like this for about 250 metres.

“You can do this!”

“No, I can’t.”

“Yes you can!  You’ve done it before!  And they give you medals at the end!”

“Ooooh medals!!!

“Good, see?  Keep going!”

“I can’t”

This is where I stopped to walk.

And this is where, seconds later, a lady who’d overheard me tell my already finished friend (who I hated a little bit at that moment while I thought I might throw up then die) that I wanted to barf.  She was also already finished.  I saw her running her 3k with a 5 or 6 year old kid.  That’s right…. little kids beat me.  She came alongside me, took me by the hand, and very gently said “Run.  You can do this.  You have like 200 metres left.  You didn’t come this far to walk across the finish line.  I’ll go with you.”

She dragged me to just about the end, letting me stop for 10 seconds when I begged haha, but then making me go again, the whole time asking questions about my race and if it was my first time, essentially distracting me from how much I wanted to just lay in the grass….. ok AstroTurf.  I got going again, we rounded the last corner, the finish line was in plain sight.  Maybe 50m ahead.  She let go of my hand and said “it’s all you.  You can do this!  10 more seconds!  Just keep running!!”

I felt like a little kid whose parent had just let go of the two-wheeler for the first time and was pushing me off into something I wasn’t sure I could do.

Granted, that’s sorta strange, because this woman was not my parent, I don’t know her at all, and I know how to run.  My body just Did.  Not.  Want.  To.

That’s what community in the church should look like, I reckon.  No one should have to be running the race, struggling on their own, wanting to just quit and lay down on the soaked AstroTurf.  If you’re doing your Christian life alone, there’s no one to come alongside you, hold your hand, and run with you, even though they’ve doubled back.  There’s no one to coach, to cajole, to convince you that in fact, you can do this.  Because you can.  That’s why we need community.

Because it really is a race.  And because while running is an individual sport, encouragement is not.