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Making a Difference

Every time I think I ‘ve had it and could easily kiss teaching good-bye, something happens to remind me why I do what I do. The other day the mother of a former student stopped by to tell me she’d checked into enrolling her daughter in my class next year, only to be told I might not be here. I confirmed that I plan to be gone. She wanted to know if I could wait one more year — or if she could transfer her daughter to where I am going. That was very uplifting.

All the wonderful comments that I received from you folk on my last post helped warm my heart and ease some of my frustrations. Brig went so far as to write an entire post honoring me and her 2nd grade teacher. There are people who care.

One of my former students stopped by today — the son of the woman who wanted to put her daughter in my class for next year. He said, “Mom told me you are moving and that’s messed up. You can’t be all leaving me!”

I said, “Last time I checked, you’d left me. Aren’t you in middle school now?”

He raised his hands and shook his head, “Yeah, but, see, that’s the way it’s supposed to work. I go on to do great things, but I know you’re always back here waiting for me if I need you or anything.”

I told him I wasn’t any farther away then his email. “Email!” He snorted, “That’s just messed up!” And that’s when he hugged me. Then he said good-bye and I pretended I didn’t see the tears in his eyes.

I love my students. And they love me. That’s why my teaching makes a difference, and as long as I’m making a difference, I will teach.

Quilly is the pseudonym of Charlene L. Amsden, who lives on The Big Island in Hawaii. When she is not hanging out with Amoeba, she is likely teaching or sewing. Or she could be cooking, taking photographs, or even writing. But if she's not doing any of that, she's probably on Facebook or tinkering with her blog.


  1. Well, he’s got a point. He is supposed to go on to do great things. And he can do those things because you taught him to be confident in himself, and treated him like he was capable of doing those things. And he’s supposed to find you years later and say, “I don’t know if you remember me…” And of course you will.

    Mrs. Wright wasn’t my full time second grade teacher. I saw her one afternoon a week. She made that big of a difference in such a tiny amount of time. A big enough difference that 25 years later I’m still talking about her. As this boy will be doing in 25 years.

  2. Brig — I don’t even care if he remembers my name. I just want him to remember that somebody believed in him. I actually received condolences from other teachers when they learned this youngman was in my class. Then they were double shocked when they heard I’d contacted his mother at the end of his fourth grade year and asked her to put him in my class. I saw a kid with potential. Everyone else saw a behavior problem.

    Now he’s in an honors program at a NASA school. That’s my reward. (Unless of course he goes on to become a scientist. Then I’ll probably have to apologize to him.

  3. That will depend on what kind of scientist he becomes, Q. Not all of us struggle all the time. The worst struggles he’s likely to have are (a) suddenly discovering that he’s not, after all, smart enough to make the grade or (b) making the grade and then suffering from “blue collar angst” – the “what the hell am I doing here” that affects large numbers of “escapees” from the lower strata of society.

    I still marvel at your perseverence – and beyond perseverence.

  4. It’s these golden moments that allow us to continue trudging through the relentless muck. I hope you get many more – you certainly deserve them.

  5. It’s clear that you are good at what you do, and it’s always nice when people show appreciation, in whatever form. I spent many years working with adults who had a learning disability, which brought daily rewards, sometimes just from a smile or a nod. I left because I couldn’t stand the managers, otherwise I’d probably still be there.

  6. I have been remiss at keeping up with everyone’s blog, even mine!

    I wanted to let you know your idea was chosen as the non-knitter idea for the Dressing Eunice contest I had. If you will email me with where I can send you prize from my stash of swap goodies, I’ll get it out to you within this next week!

    I just laughed my tail off at the black fleece idea, I have even started working on it already!

    Caffinna at bright ok dot net

  7. OC — well, this is a “land on your feet” kind of kid. I am hoping he keeps that quality all through life.

    Mumma — I got one a few years back, too, when a kid from my first 5th grade arrived with an invitation to his graduation. He said he would have quit school if it hadn’t been for me teaching him how to be successful. Then he told me he was already enrolled in college.

    Bazza — management does leave a lot to be desired in education, too. Too bad we couldn’t just avoid those folks and do what needs to be done!

    Jan — thanks — I am so shocked that my idea won. I thought so many others were better.

  8. Perhaps you can hold on there for one more year…let that little girl in your class.

    I don’t think there’s very many parents that would take the time to try to get their kid in a certain class…though, plenty would probably make an effort to get a student out of class because the teacher was too tough.

  9. Silver — OC and I are really looking forward to living in the same time zone, and OC needs an ocean to do his work, so it is pretty certain that that time zone will not be in Nevada. So, if that girl’s mother really wants me to be her daughter’s teacher, they’ll be moving, too. I am not staying here.

    Btw, it is so common for parents to request special teachers, that our principal will take the requests, but she will not guarantee placement.

  10. Awwwww… that is sO sweet! Yep! Occasionally someone comes along that makes it all worthwhile! And the kids almost ALWAYS know the value of their teachers! Wish the parents would learn from the kids!

  11. Wonderful story Quilly, it is nice to see someone having such a wonderful impact on someone else.

    God Bless you, you are truly a wonderful lady

  12. Bill — thank you. I’d like to think I am pretty much ordinary. Most of the teachers I work with — certainly all of the 5th grade teachers — put forth as much compassion and energy as I do, and I am pretty certain two of them give even more.

  13. Maybe you think you are “ordinary” but your students don’t think so. Those kids will remember you all their lives as someone who genuinely cared about them and wanted to see them succeed in life. Teachers like you are not the norm- they are the exception. A kid usually gets only one or two throughout both school and college.

  14. Cindy — I think thinking I’m “ordinary” is a big part of what makes what I do work — it isn’t just what I do. It’s who I am.

    Jackie — that hope is what keeps teachers from giving up. Teaching isn’t like cleaning the house. A teacher can’t look back on a finished product, because if s/he is doing her/his job correctly, the product is never finished.

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