Teachers Change the World
What if we poured as much energy into the people around us as teachers pour into their students?
This week is Teacher Appreciation Week. If you’re on social media, you may have seen your friends posting photos and reminiscing about their favorite teachers from childhood. Most of us have an elementary or high school teacher or even college professor that we remember as our favorite.
Who is yours? Was it someone who turned stale dates into exciting events in history class? A teacher who unlocked your imagination through literature or creative writing? A professor so enthusiastic about algebra even you learned to enjoy the subject? A tutor who went above and beyond to guide you toward success?
I’ve experienced all of the above thanks to my parents, teachers in homeschool co-ops and college professors. As I look back on my childhood and adolescence, those people stand out as giants who helped form the very person I am today. Not just in what I know, but in how I think, and how I experience the world.
From my teachers’ perspectives, however, they were just doing their jobs.
Making a Big Difference in a Big World
My generation was brought up to “dream big” and “change the world.” Such platitudes jibe well with our increasingly globalized society. No longer are we confined to the worlds of our own schools, neighborhoods or cities. We’re connected to peers states and continents away. We’re intimately acquainted with multiple national and global issues. In fact, we may be more aware of pressing global concerns than the concerns of our own communities, because we spend far more time looking at our social media feeds than walking around the block.
In a world like this, where the only issues that are real to us are often the big ones, to do anything but “dream big” seems counter-intuitive. If we want to make a difference, we must accomplish big things. To influence society, we must speak before big crowds. If we want to change the culture, we must win big elections.
Or so we think.
People Around You Do the Changing
What does this have to do with teachers? In today’s whirlwind culture of big dreams and marches on Washington, the small town teacher who shows up every day with a smile may not think they’re making that big of a difference.
The parent who volunteers to teach a weekly class for area homeschoolers may not feel they’re having an impact on those kids’ lives.
The grandparent, aunt, uncle or babysitter who tirelessly loves and guides their charges may not feel they’re changing the world.
But they are. Because at the end of the day, it isn’t big headlines that form who we are as people. It isn’t the famous celebrities or politicians that devote time to us, inspire us daily, and encourage us over a span of years. It’s the people we find ourselves surrounded by from childhood. People like teachers.
What if we, as a society, starting pouring a little less energy into the big picture? What if we poured as much energy into people around us as teachers pour into their students? The individuals in our circles would benefit greatly. Our communities would flourish. And a lot of the big picture problems we see in the world would begin solving themselves.
So during Teacher Appreciation Week, think of the teachers who meant the most to you. The ones who went the extra mile to help you, pushed you to become better, or awakened an interest that turned into a passion. And don’t just think of them — reach out to them and tell them how much it mattered that they showed up every day and did their jobs.
And teacher — school teacher, parent, guardian, coach, relative — please understand that everything you sacrifice for the people in your charge is not wasted. It’s making a bigger difference than you know. Fancy stars and prestigious politicians may be debating big issues on TV. But you’re the one actually changing the world, one day, one person, at a time.