On Saturday, May 19, I attended the annual instructor’s meeting at Fresno Pacific University in Fresno, California. I was very impressed with the theme of that meeting — “Making A Difference” — which drew in part from John C. Maxwell’s book pictured above. I haven’t read the book in its entirety yet, but after our meeting, I’m anxious to do so. (I actually bought the book a few years back when I heard Dr. Maxwell speak at FPU, and was lucky enough to get my copy signed by the author.)

As I’ve been thinking about this book and the theme of our meeting, one thing is clear: teachers are difference makers. One of the things that makes us do what we do every day is the fact that we are driven to make a difference in our students’ lives. No matter how big our class sizes get… or how many tests they say we must give… or how many subjects they take away (art!)… or any number of other challenges that get set down before us… we want to make a difference.

A great example of this drive to make a difference is the story of a very good friend of mine who is also a teacher. She and I began our teaching careers the same year, so we have shared the ups and downs of teaching right from the start. Two years ago though, my friend had her first child, and this has made going to work each day even more challenging for her. More than once this school year she has talked to me about how much she is looking forward to being able to spend more time with her son over the summer. Yet this week, she told me that she is seriously considering tutoring a boy from her class this year for several hours per week during this summer break. Why? Because he is profoundly struggling and could benefit from the extra help. The bottom line: She knows that by working with this boy one-on-one over the summer, she can MAKE A DIFFERENCE for him in a way that is simply not possible for a teacher to do during the school year while teaching a whole class. I was blown away. I know how important this break is to her, and yet she feels compelled to help this student. She could just recommend that he get help, but she told me, “I know right where he is, so we can get straight to work on his areas of weakness.” She recognizes how critical it is that this student get help NOW, and she is more than willing to be the one to give it.

My point is… this is who we are as teachers. We are difference makers. So as another school year comes to a frenzied close, don’t forget to take a moment to reflect on what a difference you’ve made in your students’ lives this year. You may not ever directly know the impact you’ve had, but rest assured that you have made a difference. Because you were part of a child’s life, the quality of that life is somehow better now than it would have otherwise been. What greater reward can there be than that?

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