So do we make a difference?

During the holidays I have had time to read an excellent book called “Good morning Mr Sarra” (click here for the link).  In the prologue was a quote that inspired this post.

A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove… but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.

Forest E. Witcraft (1894-1967)

This made me think deeply do we actually make a difference?

It is very easy to lose sight of what is important. I started as a teacher five years ago and I know from experience especially those first couple of years you are constantly tired and working holidays and weekends.

So do we make a difference in our students lives?  Will we ever know if our students have an” aha moment” in the future that positively changes the course of their life.

This is the story of two very different students, one I taught a couple of years ago and one I am teaching currently.

Robin was a very disengaged student I had in my first Food Technology class in my first year of teaching. The whole class was very difficult and to be honest due to major behavioural issues in that class there was not a lot of learning happening. Throughout the two years I taught her she exhibited minimal motivation to engage with Food Technology. She left in Year 10 to go to our senior campus.

Early on this year we had our Year 10 into 11 promotional evening. An ex student came up to me and said do you remember me? This normally sends shivers down my spine as I tried to remember their name. It was Robin all grown up.

She said that she had missed my classes and it had given her the motivation to cook at home and explore her love of food. This came as a real shock to me as I never really felt like I had got through to her.

My second student Kate (not her real name) is a student who does not find all subjects at school easy and  finds it difficult to get on with some teachers. She has real leadership potential, however, her self esteem needs nurturing to realise her potential. Kate always looks out for the underdogs.

She has been in my class for almost two years and has always been enthusiastic. Kate also asked questions that pushed me to be a better teacher. We are not meant to have favourites, however, she is one of my favourites. She handed me a sheet she had written for me out of the blue one day. I put it in my roll book and read it later. I was blown away! this is one of five nicest things anyone has ever given me. Here is what she wrote.

Mr Harper,
I’m happy that you’re my teacher;
I enjoy each lesson you teach.
As my role model you inspire me
To dream and to work and to reach.

With your kindness you get my attention;
Every day you are planting a seed
Of curiosity and motivation
To know and to grow and succeed.

You help me fulfil my potential;
I’m thankful for all that you’ve done.
I admire you each day, and I just want to say,
As a teacher, you’re number one!

When I began your class I think I knew
The kind of challenges you’d make me face.
You gave me motivation to pursue
The best, and to reject the commonplace.

Your thinking really opened up my mind.
With wisdom, style and grace, you made me see,
That what I’d choose to seek, I’d surely find;
You shook me out of my complacency.

I thank you now for everything you’ve done;
What you have taught me I will not outgrow. Your kind attention touched my mind and heart;
In many ways that you will never know.

I will remember you my whole life through;
I wish that all my teachers were like you.

We may never know what we do as teachers and how it manifests in our our students lives. Occasionally we get glimpses of our influence and how this makes positive changes in our students lives.

Never under estimate the positive influence that teachers can have even for disengaged students.

I would love to hear your stories of when you got a glimpse of how you made a difference.

Featured image from


3 responses to “So do we make a difference?

  1. I have a few – and these help keep me going – but one of my favourites was at a parent-teacher night. The parents of this lovely year 8 girl told me, “You’re the first teacher with whom did not cry over maths”.


  2. Awwhh! What a beautiful poem and sentiments! Very special. I always keep such cards or notes. They are very uplifting.

    Overall, I think I have had the most impact OUT of the classroom, supporting kids who have needed it most (ranging from eating disorders, social isolation to family disputes). At one school, I drove a student fortnightly to a psychiatrist, as she wouldn’t let anyone else take her. Her Mum and I agreed that with her permission I would drive her to and from the appointment. Standing at another girls funeral after her mothers tragic suicide, is another way I know I have made a difference, over many hours of emotional support. I still have the handmade stuffed toy she made when our first son was born. Another student wrote a poem for my son (which she framed and was in his room for years) after I supported her and her family over another emotional issue. Some situations of “making a difference” were very challenging (my first mandatory reporting case when I was a prac teacher).

    It is really special that “Kate” took the time to share with you how she feels. I am sure there are many more teachers that have had a positive impact on their students, yet their students have not yet communicated with them or do not know how. At the end of the year in my Religious Ed classes, I bring in card and craft for the students to write two cards to teachers who they would like to thank (can be anonymous) and I pop these quietly in their pigeon holes. Simple but effective.

    These stories above and the many others, are what I remember the most about the world of education. Making a difference via a personal connection.


  3. Malyn
    I love that you dont make your students cry for maths. What a great story. Thankyou so much for sharing.

    Wow I had no idea how much you have done outside the classroom. It does not suprise me that students would come to you for help in very hard times. the little things the kids do like your soft toy for your first born are very special. I love the idea in RE of getting the students to write two cards to of their teachers.
    Thankyou for your amazing story of making a difference.


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