Student writing

Lessons From LifeChangers: The Rewards of Teaching

This year is, without a doubt, a year of many firsts and a year of reflection. Everything I normally do as a teacher has had to be modified or deleted. But one thing for sure I have tried not to change is the impact I have on my students. Being an inspiring and impactful educator is why I chose the teaching profession.

Sometimes it doesn’t seem like I am very successful in achieving that goal. But, there are times when it feels like I have achieved success. Recently, I had my students write a reflective essay titled “A Month With Ms. James”. One student’s essay provided me with an affirmation that my mission as an educator, even in just one month, has been accomplished.

“I started school late, so it really hasn’t been a month with Ms. James. But from what it has been, I can tell she is a very awesome teacher. She is really funny and always tries to think positive around us. In addition, she sets a good example of how many African American people are – you know, she is not the stereotypical black woman.

“Ms. James makes sure she tries her hardest with her students; she treats us as if we were her own, and she just tries to make sure we are always doing good and staying out of trouble. One thing that I remember her saying is that if you get in trouble with one teacher, you’re in trouble with her, too, and that basically goes along with her treating us as if we were hers.

“She is so inspirational and has done so much in her life, all by writing, and that shows off a lot. Most students tend to say ‘What is writing going to do for me?’ Or even, ‘What would I ever need writing for?’ Ms. James has shown us writing can do many amazing things for you in life. I couldn’t imagine writing essays or filling out applications and getting an entire trip – free. That’s so amazing, like imagine doing that. She has been to places I couldn’t imagine getting a chance to visit. If I had the type of talent she did, honestly, let me tell you, I WOULD NOT BE HERE IN ARKANSAS ANYMORE. Not only that, but imagine how many of her students have followed in her footsteps. I know she must feel very accomplished with herself.

“She always comes to school wearing something nice and pretty. I also like that she has so many cool stories about her life. However, one thing that she does not play about is COVID-19, but I do truly understand why. However, I find it a little funny, though, and she also does not play about your mask or going behind her plastic shield thingy (or hand sanitizer). Without a doubt, she is pretty cool and funny and a great teacher overall.”

This student nailed every single thing I hope each of my students would learn in my class. Yes, I am an English teacher. I definitely want them to learn how to incorporate the new grammar rules into their writing assignments, to be inspired by the multicultural literature that I introduce, and to improve their reading comprehension scores.

However, I teach mainly because I want to influence all my students in such a way that I illuminate their abilities, inspire them to greatness, and impress upon each of them, that if no one else does, I care. Simply stated, I love teaching because it gives me the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of my students.

This is part of a series of posts from nominees for our LifeChanger of the Year educator recognition program. We meet scores of fascinating LifeChangers every year who have interesting perspectives to share about children, education and life.

Learn more about Claudine S. James on her LifeChanger of the Year profile.