We’ve all heard it said in many different ways. “If I could just make a difference in one child, then it would be worth it.” Educators want to make a difference in their students’ lives. They want to have a positive impact and possibly change a person for the better.
I have found that it is fairly easy to make a difference in “one” child. Teachers everywhere will soon be standing at their classroom door waiting for the new crop of students to enter their domain. From day one, teachers will be looking for those who will excel and those who will struggle. I would be willing to place a wager on the fact that any teacher with an erasable marker and a textbook can pick out the easiest student to make a difference in during the first day of class.
Some kids are just easier to impact than others. If my goal for the year is to find that “one” child to influence, then my year is over on the first day. I have been a successful teacher. Little Johnny or Janie will be a better student because of me and the rest of the students will have to endure the year as second fiddle.
I believe making a difference in “one child” is a weak, pathetic, useless philosophy that only helps educators, teachers, principals, coaches, pastors, parents, or any other well-meaning adult feel good about themselves with a false sense of success. It is giving in to a self-saluting mediocrity. If I have twenty five students in my classroom during a given hour, then my job is to make a difference in each and every one of them. If I have 150 students in a day, then I have to impact all 150 of them. If I don’t, then I am a failure. And, I don’t like to be a failure.
The motivation for quality teaching and instruction, a positive classroom environment, proper discipline, high expectations of students, and an overall atmosphere of constructive school culture comes from an educator taking the risk to make a difference in EVERY child, knowing that if one child slips through the cracks, then the educator has failed that child. Every child is different and needs to be pushed or pulled, prodded or pampered in a different way in order to get them to learn what the teacher is teaching. (By the way, just because a teacher is teaching doesn’t mean a student is learning.)
It is this motivation to make a difference in all students that fosters growth in the teacher to become an expert in her craft. It is the difference between a teacher having twenty years of experience and a teacher having a first-year experience twenty times. It stimulates the teacher into an enthusiasm not just for the content of the course but the children that are in the classroom. After all, teaching is not about math or science or English. It’s about children!
Every child, regardless of socio-economic status, race, religion, creed, who your daddy is, or what political party your family is affiliated with, has the right to get the best from each and every teacher. Teachers who demand the best of themselves see their students demand the best of themselves as well. No Child Left Behind should not have to be a law; it should be ingrained in the framework of every educator.
Maybe I’m just naive enough to believe that I can actually make a difference in everyone that I teach. But, as author and speaker Les Brown puts it, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you will land among the stars.”
So, what’s the harm in trying.