The Beginning and End of a Teacher's Impact


Sometimes I walk out of my class on the verge of tears. Teaching is a lot harder than I expected. Some days, students refuse to apply themselves and barely accomplish to write a few sentences on paper. Other days, I find myself picking up the pieces of my students' distressed personal lives. In my experience, working in a school means attempting to fulfill more needs than one can effectively address. 

Despite all the energy that a teacher expends on her students, sometimes it’s not possible to cover all bases. And while some wise teachers may have learned to accept this, I have not. Some days, I can’t provide the academic, social, and emotional attention that my students need. But when I take a step back, I remember that students learn from many different places and people - teachers cannot sustainably support students’ entire academic, social and personal lives.

Where does a teacher’s impact begin and where does it end? Though these lines are not clear, and are different depending on the teacher, it is important to remember that a beginning and an end exist. This is not to belittle a teacher’s ability to impact students. Instead, this places a practical expectation on teachers that can keep them from burning out and spreading themselves too thin.

In addition to academic instruction, students require social-emotional support to develop their character, resiliency and ability to build and maintain positive relationships. To provide dynamic support for students, schools might consider hiring coaches and mentors to assist students’ holistic development. While teachers would continue to deliver academic instruction, coaches could help students build their resiliency and achieve their personally identified goals. Mentors on the other hand, could serve as a sounding board for students and provide a more unstructured setting for learning.

With increased standardization in schools, learning environments have become highly structured and nearly identical. Students need to be exposed to different types of learning environments in order to develop the mental flexibility required to navigate their personal and professional lives. Introducing a variety of personnel into the school day could also relieve teachers’ workloads -- teaching needs to become a more sustainable profession as high turnover rates negatively affect student engagement in school.

Most importantly, teachers need to be reminded that they can’t sustainably support the various needs of all their students, and that’s okay. With added support in schools, teachers and students will be better equipped to do their jobs. Though teaching will always be a rigorous profession, there is always room for improvement.

Nasrin Jafari