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Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, and author of Meditation in the College Classroom: A Pedagogical Tool to Help Students De-Stress, Focus,...
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Making a Difference

The letter started off by stating You have no idea the impact you have had on my childs life during this short school year.

Wow~ I paused after reading the letter handed to me this week by one of my students. A three-page letter~ hand-written by the parent. She said her son worked harder than ever~ and that for the first time~ he wasnt pushed into the corner and ignored because he was energentic and unfocused at times. She wrote about how he was now talking about sav ing money for college and that his personality had changed. He was now a deeper thinker~ with more compassion about different points of view.

I was blown away. I read the letter four times that day. I enjoyed the feeling of knowing I made a difference. But it hasnt always been that way. I definitely didnt receive these kind of letters in my first years of teaching. So what changed? How had I impacted this child so much this year?

I reflected on this question and came up with the following thoughts:


I was able to build a relationship with this student. According to the letter~ he trusted me and didnt want to break my trust~ which caused him to work harder. I did this by treating him with respect. Being firm with the student but not yelling or criticizing.


I made the classrooom as fun and engaging as possible. While his attention was lacking at times~ he enjoyed the class and laughed while learning. He was able to move around the classroom and work with his hands.


The student knew that when I called on him he would have to produce an answer. During math instruction~ he had to work out a problem until he got it right. He knew homework had to be turned in on time~ every time. In the letter~ his mother stated that~ in previous school years~ he had been allowed to stare at the wall and still earn honor roll.

Parent Buy-In

I kept in constant contact with the parents~ providing whatever resources and help I could. We discussed grades and performance. We worked together to help the child succeed.


Finally~ I learned to be myself in the classroom. I shared my interests and hobbies. I was honest with the students~ and admitted when I messed up. I didnt try to be something or someone I was not. I taught the curriculum but in a way that matched my personality and strengths.

Since education is not an exact science~ I am sure there are other reasons why I might have helped this child. But I think the concepts listed above provide me with some insight. Can you think of a time you really impacted a child in your classroom? What were the ingredients for success? What did you do or say that made the difference. Join me at the Innovative Teaching group and please share your insights


Have a blessed day~