“I’ve Been Hard to Manage But You’ve Taught Me So Much.” A Teacher Considers Her Impact.

Teachers, our students need us. Let me make that statement more personal: My students need and appreciate me. How do I know? They told me so in birthday cards that they wrote for me last Friday. For the first time in my career, I had a student with the same birthday as me (June 7th) so we decided to celebrate this momentous occasion with some in-class festivities. We ate donuts and cupcakes, drank punch, danced to music, and they made cards for the birthday people out of construction paper. As they finished each card, my students came up to me and shared their birthday wishes. What I read was so beautiful and inspiring that I’d like to share some of their words with you:

Happy Birthday, Ms. Dukes. You work very hard and you care for all of your students. Everyone has a lot of respect for you…”

“Happy Birthday! Thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me. You have helped me through a very tough time…”

“Thank you for being a teacher and a friend. Thanks for caring and showing love.”

To know that I inspire my students so deeply as per their own assessment of me (the ones that matter most) is a wonderful gift and one that many teachers are receiving. According to Teachers Change Lives,

“Inspiring students is integral to ensuring their success and encouraging them to fulfil their potential. Students who are inspired by their teachers can accomplish amazing things, and that motivation almost always stays with them. Inspiration can also take many forms, from helping a pupil through the academic year and their short-term goals, to guiding them towards their future career. Years after graduation, many working professionals will still cite a particular teacher as the one who fostered their love of what they currently do and attribute their accomplishments to that educator.”

Even after eleven years of teaching, I am still in awe of the impact that we teachers have on our students. It’s great, like in the case of my birthday cards because the impact is positive. But what happens when the thoughts and subsequent actions that teachers display towards their students are negative and uninspiring? Does the same level of impact hold true?

Research shows that sadly, yes it does. According to, “School Discipline Must Stop Being a Pipeline to Prison,”

The hard part is that it all starts with subtle assumptions made by adults on any given day. Once made, many of these assumptions become self-fulfilling. A “zero tolerance” mindset is part of the issue. Sure, select circumstances cannot be tolerated, and reasonable people know where that line is drawn. But, especially for black kids, under zero-tolerance policies, simple teenage antics become “harassment,” garden-variety arguments become “bullying,” and an astounding number of items become an “instrument which may be used in an offensive manner.”

I choose to see the best in my students, even when that is not what they are showing me. I genuinely believe in them, their potential, and their greatness. They feel that resonating from me which is why they can write things like, “I know sometimes you get angry with us, but I know you get angry only because you want to make us educated” and “You’ve taught me a lot through the time we’ve had together even though I have been very hard to manage.”

Our students need us. They need us to care for them. They need us to stick by them. They need us to love on them. They need us to encourage them. They need us to inspire them.

What do you think?

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