You only have a child for 180 days. It’s not like you can make that much of an impact in only 180 days.
When you consider the average life span in the U.S. is 78.7 years (or 28,725.5 days), 180 days does seem like a mere drop in the bucket. That works out to only 0.6% of a person’s life being spent with a single teacher. Even if you total the days of every teacher for 12 years of public school, the math just doesn’t add up to any significant, impactful amount of time.
So, when you ask many teachers why they chose the teaching profession and they remark about their vision and dream and desire and passion to make a difference in kids’ lives, the math just doesn’t add up. Such dreams seem futile, huh? You’re serious? You’re going to change a child’s life in 0.6%?
Well, yes. Of course, we are.
Seems simple enough to us, because to teachers, impact is not a matter of time. To us, change isn’t contingent upon quantity, but quality. It’s not about the amount of days we have with a child; it’s a matter of what we do with those days that defies logic.
We don’t quantify a school year into a sum of days. Somehow, we operate under a different set of directions; our mindsets are just wired differently. That’s how we can face 30 or more total strangers, with 30 different levels of learning, toting behind them 143.5 different pieces of baggage, and efficiently, effectively teach.
See, the impact a teacher can make on a child is a matter of strategic phenomena.
In the midst of enormous diversity swirling about their classrooms, teachers have a knack to speak to the heart of every single individual child. Bypassing baggage, erasing apprehensions, and filling voids, the way a teacher reacts to and interacts with a child supersedes days on a calendar. And when impact gets to the core of the soul, real change occurs.
Sure, I’m biased. Why wouldn’t I be? I am a teacher, therefore an impact-maker, after all. But for the cynics out there, I will admit one thing. I can’t say I am the sole reason Marcus went to West Point or Andy got a perfect score on her AP exam or Jacinda flies a helicopter for the Navy. I’m not the only reason Xautyca and Ayana are studying to be teachers or Megan is pre-med. Of course not.
But… the collective impact of these kids’ teachers sure enough sent them on these pathways. 100% guaranteed. So, yes, I will proudly stake my claim on the little bitty pieces of impact I had in carving out the futures of my students. That’s why I chose to be a teacher.
And I see the small chisels of impression every day in our classrooms. Dacia Sheffield at Baker Middle School clears away the rubble when she introduces real life scenarios and careers in mathematics that open up new horizons for her math students. Isaiah Harper masterfully carves out an impact when he convinces high school boys to take a risk and become actors in Northside High’s performance of The Outsiders. I can see the signs of change when Ana DeJesus at Spencer High challenges her reluctant Spanish students to step out on a limb and converse with her 1 on 1 in a new language.
There are small impacts all over our city that chip away at the concreted obstacles lying along the road toward our children’s remarkable destinies. Some bursts are stronger than others, but collectively they can really make a magnificent impact on the rest of a child’s 78.7 years.
So, why not join the demolition crew? Put on a hard hat and find a way to chisel away at a child’s obstructed journey. Or at least don a fluorescent safety vest and walk beside a teacher who teaches for one thing – to alter the course of a child’s life in 0.6% of the time. Thanks, teachers. Thanks for operating against logic. Please keep chiseling.
Sheryl Green is a public educator in Columbus. Email her at email@example.com.