How much of an impact do you make?

Something I’ve always done since my first year of teaching is hold onto great cards and emails from kids, parents or peers that make an impact.

It’s become a bit of a ritual as I move them into my “Great Emails” folder (very original name, no?) or into an old visual arts sketchbook from high school. As each one is moved into the folio or folder, certain words take me back to specific times and memories of joy, pride and/or wonder.

Teaching is an equally demanding and rewarding job. It isn’t a 9 to 3.30pm gig. However, too often it is like we only see and feel the demands, leaving the rewards to the side.

Without being overly earnest, every day teachers make a difference. A difficulty we face as teachers is that we often won’t know just how much of one we’ve made – sometimes with only a handful of words.

I was reminded of this recently as my wife and I have started preparing to move house.

A letter from a previous Year Six student fell out of a basket next to our lonesome kitchen pot plant. I have no idea how it got there (though chances are on my three year old toddler who is showing great strengths in the areas of invisibility and kleptomania).

Toddler’s powers aside, how it got there doesn’t matter. It’s the words and message within that letter that do.

Here was one key part what it said:

This year you have inspired me to be a generous, bright and empathic person, which I believe I succeeded in because of your inspiration, and I know that because from time and time again you have said, “You’re a good man, XXXX”, which really has made me see myself in new ways.

Five simple words, delivered with a smile, eye contact and positive tone of voice, made an impact on this kid.

It shifted how he saw himself, what he thought he could do, and was willing to try.

All because of one little phrase.

Reading those words also had a significant impact on me. It’s further strengthened my belief in what I can do, want to do and will do in the future…which is probably why the research around teacher efficacy (confidence and belief) continues to shows a strong connection between it and increased student outcomes.

When we believe we can (and do) make a difference to impact students, we start living up to our expectations and beliefs.

I can’t help but wonder, how many words, phrases or conversations are we having with people every day that make an impact? These little exchanges that build up over time and eventually lead to a big decision or action taking place.

That may start with one little phrase.

It also got me thinking about we can catch these moments and give ourselves time to reflect on how we see our ability to make an impact of those around us.

What might happen if we took a moment to stop and recall one moment where we made a connection, shared a moment or made the tiniest of differences? How much of an impact might that have, not only our students and peers, but also on us, if we do that every day over of a week? Term? Year? Career?

Maybe, instead of holding only onto cards and emails from others, we start mindfully holding onto and collecting moments what we’re also proud of or surprised by too?

It really could make quite the impact, just like we do on all those others around there.

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