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.

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