I suppose it is human nature. I would like to believe that I have made a difference. Of course, I do believe I can make a difference in the lives of my children and grandchildren, and I do believe that is part of “my calling.” I’m happy to have that responsibility, and I am deeply rewarded when I see that God has in fact allowed me to make a difference there. My children and grandchildren are wonderful about expressing their feelings for me, and that is just about the best blessing a mother or grandmother could have!
But, today, I’m thinking about the idea of “making a difference” in the circle outside my own family. For the years I spent as a teacher in public school classrooms, was that time well-spent? Did I actually make a difference? Realistically it’s not so much that I need to feel I made a difference in the WORLD... But in someone’s life?
When you’re a teacher, you have lots of moments of knowing, at the time, that what you are doing is valuable, that you are making an investment in the life of a child. Children are wonderful about letting you know that they think you are special. But, after the passing of time, I sometimes wonder if I made any lasting difference. Then occasionally, rarely actually, a reminder comes my way that tells me, “It was worth it.”
I spent twelve years of my teaching career with gifted children (K-8), in a small school in a small town. Those were special times for me, and I often remarked that I couldn’t believe they actually paid me to do that job. (I didn’t say it too loudly, because my husband was the superintendent). I had the same students year after year, as they progressed through elementary school. I loved my “kids.” I don’t even remember the “curriculum” that I made up for us to cover in my class. I’m not even sure I had a “curriculum.” My primary goal for my students was that they learn how to think for themselves (creatively and critically) and that they realize that they could do basically anything in life, if they would always do their best. It was so fun to see their little minds working away!
Recently one of them came to mind, and as I wondered what “became” of him, I employed the amazing tool that is the internet. I located some information about him and contacted his alma mater. They in turn let him know how to get in touch with me. I wasn’t even sure the “student” would remember me—my strongest memories of him are from his second-grade year, and that was around 1981. I did not expect to hear from him, but I was thrilled to learn from the internet search that he had become an engineer (that was my prediction, when he was a second-grader—seriously).
Today I received a special blessing. In my inbox was a note from him. He told me all about his education, his career choice, and what he is doing now. I was amazed to read about that little boy, all grown up and successful. Then, I read, “I wanted to say just how nice it is to hear from you, and I want you to know that the moments in your classroom still seem like yesterday to me and were highly formative in the direction my life has taken. Do you remember the program I wrote in BASIC on the Atari that played Jolly old St Nick? The pride you showed in me, drawing the principals attention to it... moments like that really pushed me to want to try to be better than average and that spirit has stuck with me for life.”
Tears streaming, I thought about this topic: looking back--a difference made? It seems so, and I am once again thankful that God called me to be a teacher and placed me in a position to influence children through the years.