15 Ways You’re Making a Difference as an Educator

15 Ways You're Making a Difference as an Educator

Teaching is often described as a calling for a reason–it can feel thankless and it’s often impossible to tell if you’re being successful based on test scores and elusive “targets” that seem to move constantly. Add in this year’s unexpected digital learning and it’s no surprise that many educators are feeling like they just aren’t making a difference. But–you are! The key is to look for the ways you are impacting your students beyond the curriculum. Here are 15 ways you can be sure you’re making a difference:

1. Your passion becomes their passion.

When they’re suddenly writing in a journal or drafting their first novel. When they’re entering art contests at the local library, or applying to colleges to major in math. This is such a huge compliment to your influence because you have made your subject area so fun, engaging and worthwhile that your students are opting to pursue it beyond the walls of your classroom. There is no higher compliment!

2. They come back to say “Thank You”.

Teaching is a lot like parenting sometimes–you don’t really know you’ve done your job well until it’s drawing to a close. The first time a student returns to school or stops you in the supermarket, suddenly in their adult form, to tell you that they’re thankful to have taken your class–it’s an incredible feeling.

3. They open up to you. 

When you call them on their missing homework or their tardiness and they actually give you the real story–you’ve forged a bond that matters. Students are notorious for shutting out adults who they think don’t care or don’t ‘get it’. If they’re telling you about their home life, their dating drama or their hopes and dreams, you’ve become someone who really matters to them. 

4. They call you “Mom”. 

Sometimes it’s a skip of the tongue and sometimes it’s an intentional choice to let you know just how much you mean to them. Regardless, it’s a sign you’ve become a central adult figure in their life. 

5. They’re hanging around. 

When your students start coming in for tutoring or staying late to chat about common interests, it means you have created a classroom environment that is inviting and fosters learning. 

6. They start to speak up. 

Every teacher has experienced the crickets of that first day when they initiate a response and get nothing from the class. As the days pass and they learn you are a person they can trust, you will start to get more responses, and students who were once shy are now confident. This is huge! Check out these tips to create a climate for questioning in your classroom.

15 Ways You're Making a Difference as an Educator_teachers make a difference

7. Parents weigh in. 

When a parent or guardian reaches out to tell you that their child loves your class, this is a huge compliment. To know that a student goes home and talks about your class over the dinner table is a sign that your lessons and your relationship have impacted them beyond the classroom. 

8. They add you on social media. 

Even if your policy is to not accept their “friendship”, when students find you on social media, it allows them to keep up with you but to also reach out with questions or to seek advice.

9. They ask for your endorsement. 

Whether it’s for a college application or a recommendation for a club, if a student is asking you to write their reference letter, it shows a level of trust. 

10. They are worried about disappointing you. 

When report cards come out, they’re not just worried about what their parents will think of their “D”. They come to show you how they’re doing and genuinely care about your feedback. Or, if they get in trouble, they’re at your door with their head hung low. They know you’re rooting for them–and they’re sorry when they let you down. 

11. They laugh at your jokes. 

Teachers are notorious for bad puns and dumb jokes. If they humor you, that’s a win. If they join in? You’re golden. 

 12. You’re becoming a leader

Maybe your colleagues come to you for advice on handling a student. Maybe administration asks you to lead professional development, or you’re asking to coach or mentor. These are all signs you’re trusted and appreciated. 

13. You’ve let them see you fail.

It’s huge to allow students to see that you’re not perfect. When the lesson goes awry and you make that into a teachable moment about rolling with the punches, you’re leaving them with an impactful lesson that will serve them well in adulthood.

14. They engage with your material beyond what is required. 

When they bring you an article about the space launch, tell you they visited the history museum on vacation, or show you they memorized that tricky equation, it’s their way of saying “I appreciate the time you’ve invested in me.”

15. They become educators themselves. 

The ultimate validation is when a former student tells you that you inspired them to become an educator. There is no test score or teacher evaluation that can match that feeling!

Also Check Out:

15 Ways You're making a difference as an Educator

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I am a Southern gal, mama to two kids (8 years and 6 months) and I have been teaching middle school for over 7 years. I love to go hiking or read a book in my free time. My favorite part of teaching is connecting with kids over things beyond just academics--teenagers are awesome!

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