The Profession May Change, but Teachers Still 'Affect Eternity'

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February 25, 2020

This is the sixth in a series of guest blogs by the 2019-20 Michigan Regional Teachers of the Year. Tricia Zeman, who was a third-grade teacher at Sycamore Elementary in Holt Public Schools, is now an instructional coach for the district.

Eighteen years ago, I became an elementary school teacher. I had no idea what I was really in for as an educator. When I began my career, I thought my job was to deliver curricular instruction to children. Can you believe I was naïve enough to think that was my sole duty?

Fast forward to the present. Teachers’ roles in classrooms have evolved tremendously over the course of those years. Academic expectations are more rigorous with a higher emphasis on assessment. Technology access and usage have become more prevalent. Equity and identity are far more visible and critical in recognizing and responding to as educators. Students come to school experiencing higher levels of trauma and less experience in processing and regulating socially and emotionally.

With all these changes, teachers have had to evolve. I, being one of those people, have had to increase my knowledge of pedagogy, improve my understanding of how children develop, delve into what the standards really mean, integrate subject content, differentiate my instruction for a wide variety of learners in one classroom, analyze assessment practices, and research and learn more about trauma-informed teaching. Personally, one of my biggest transformations has been recognizing how crucial relationship development with my students is while concurrently holding high expectations.  

Many teachers are tirelessly working, giving up time with their families and experiencing high levels of stress to be a “master of all” in their classroom. Educators are left wondering, “Did I do the best I could? If not, how can I do better? Am I having an impact?”

I am here to convey to all the hardworking teachers out there that YES, you do make a difference!

I have taken a new position this year as an instructional coach, which has provided me new experiences and perspective as I travel to various buildings. I often get to see my past students, an opportunity many teachers never get to experience. Seeing my former students has been one of the most valuable experiences of my career.

The interactions with my former students have reinforced and made clear educator impact. I’ve had children cry tears of joy as they are running towards me to give me a hug. Some students opened up about how I helped them improve in a subject they struggled with or find excitement in a subject they did not previously enjoy. Others shared experiences or lessons from my classroom that they will never forget. The biggest impact hasn’t been what the students have said to me, but rather their faces. To see the excitement, passion and appreciation says it all.

For all the educators out there feeling overwhelmed and wondering if their work is making an impact, listen to me! You ARE making a difference. You ARE being remembered. You ARE the bright light in some of your students’ lives. You ARE a change agent. You ARE developing the future.

When you inevitably question your impact again as you progress through the school year and your career, I encourage you to keep this quote by Henry Brook Adams, “Teachers affect eternity; no one can tell where their influence stops.”
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