"Teachers affect eternity. They never know where their influence ends." ~Anonymous
Every so often, amid the piles of paperwork on my desk, and the zeroes in the gradebook for work not done, and the incessant number of times I have to tell my students to stop talking and get to work, a day happens that reminds me how much fun it is to be a teacher.
Like yesterday, when Mike stopped by my room between classes to talk about last week's episode of "Lost." And when Dee wanted to show me her brand new S-with-an-arrow-through-it tattoo, because after all we're both Sagittarians and that makes me cool in her eyes. And when Jill asked me if I was coming to her high school graduation, three months from now. And when Alex, my stutterer with the attitude, volunteered to read the part of Iago in English class, even though he had the most lines, because it's the coolest character in the play. And when Nick the football player arrived early for class so he could sit in my office and read the paper and tell me he was having a five-star day, according to his horoscope.
It's that time of year when we actually become people to each other, rather than just teacher and student, when you can see that you've built a relationship there, after days and weeks of trying to set down rules and trying to show them to care about words and writing. It's a very cool thing, and it always takes me by surprise.
It also reminds me of the power we have, as individuals. Not just teachers (though I often think of that: what a strange, giddy honor it is, to be entrusted with shaping someone else's child...) but people in general. You never know the influence you can have on someone else. The person in the store that you let ahead in line. The child whose family you sponsor on the angel tree during the holidays. The struggling author whose blog you visit every day. The person you smile at on the train. The neighbor you wave to.
I think that's why writing is so cool too. People you don't know and will never meet can potentially pick up your books and be changed by them. A stranger from the other side of the world can email and say "I loved your story and it made me smile." Just think of the people you can touch. It's a crazy concept...