By Elizabeth Stein
Here’s an experiment: Ask between 5 and 10 colleagues why they became a special education teacher. The results should reveal a variety of reasons, with the popular vote likely being the desire to “make a difference.”
When I was a new teacher, I thought, “Here’s my chance to change the world!” Yes, I’ve always been just a tad idealistic. But, after all, I had my own classroom—my own students—and the passion to do whatever it took to…you guessed it…make a difference. It wasn’t a question. I was just going to do it. It was as simple as that.
It didn’t take me too long to figure out that making a difference was going to take a lot more than the intense desire to just do it. So what does it take to really make a difference? Here’s my “simple” three-step plan:
Step 1: Write down how you would like to make a difference. What are your goals as a teacher?
Step 2: Be realistic. Make sure your goals are attainable and you have all the necessary resources.
Step 3: When curve balls are thrown your way, problem-solve to find another method or adjust your goals to meet your realistic conditions. Do not compromise your overall goal—just adjust how you plan to get there.
Okay, so this plan may not always be so simple when your ideas meet with the real world. You will find that when you draw on your passion for teaching, you will stay determined and persistent. Advocate for each one of your students to the best of your abilities. And even if the final result is unlike your original plan, you will see evidence of your making a difference—differently.
In a nutshell…making a difference takes focus, determination, and celebration.
It’s like the saying little drops of water make a mighty ocean. With this in mind, you can begin to notice how all of your smaller acts lead to achieving a broader goal.
On my next “read a button” school spirit day, I’m going to wear this lapel pin to remind myself and others of the value of making a difference.
So what’s your view? What does it take to make a difference?
In my next post, I’ll talk about ways your students can make a difference in their own education.