Bill Gates said there would never have been a Microsoft were it not for his teachers, Fred Wright and Ann Stephens. I have to wonder if, at the time, they realized what influence they had. Was the year that they taught Gates one that stood out above the rest, or was it a school year in which they did what they always did—taught to their best ability?
The idea makes me stop and think. I look around my classroom and wonder, “Who am I making a special impression on, and what kind of impression am I making?” Unfortunately, in the day-to-day minutiae, it’s easy to forget how much of a difference we can make for our students. We’re human, and we have our moments.
My moment was guitar club. I play guitar and love it. A fellow musician and colleague asked if I’d help supervise a school club with him. I was excited—until all the paperwork that comes with being an English teacher rolled in. I was drowning in essays and began to resent the time it took to manage the guitar club. After a while, my heart wasn’t in it.
And then I got an e-mail from a guitar club student: “I really wanted to thank you,” the note started. “… I wasn't doing anything except watching people play. But that moment when you told me that I needed to learn notes and play, right then, that's when I realized that I should give it a go. And when I picked up that guitar and played for the first time. That's when I realized that this is who I am and what I really wanted. From then on, with your help, I have accomplished a lot. I can't thank you enough. You have given me the courage ...”
This particular girl was always on the outside looking in. I had no idea how the little bit of attention I gave her would affect her.
It is moments like this that I am awakened. I am reminded of the power, responsibility and privilege that teachers have in how they influence their students.
I am certainly no heroine. No inspirational movie will be made about me. However, what I do matters. What I do, what we do, makes a difference.
How and who are you influencing today?
Sansbury is a middle and high school English teacher in Georgia.