How do I make a difference?
That’s a difficult question on a difficult day.
My day began this morning, early, when I stuck my elbow in cat throw up. Before I realized what I had done, I managed to rub the tender pink puke all over my black pants.
I changed pants and reported to my 8:30 a.m. ENG 091 class where I had to face my students with professionalism and aplomb. I had to keep in mind the new best practices I was learning for active engagement through the recent MCLI LearnShop in Scottsdale when all I wanted to do was go back to bed. Besides the cat puke, I have custody issues for my youngest son weighing on my mind. I am Out of Sorts. I do not want to be In Charge today.
I don’t know how I make a difference. I’ve been teaching at the college level for over twenty years now, and I still can’t answer that question. But here’s what I do know: that I *do* make a difference. It’s just really difficult to articulate how because my job is to arm my students with the necessary writing skills they need as they go out into the world. Once they’re out there, I only know what’s going on when they check back in, and that only happens every so often.
Still, I say this: teaching is an act of faith. To me, it’s as much an act of faith as taking Communion on Sunday or observing Lent. It’s as much an act of faith as raising one’s child to be the best person he can be and hoping it’ll work out when he or she is twenty-two and living in another city.
How I make a difference, I think, is by believing this, by believing that I make a difference, however it is that I do it. *What* I do doesn’t make nearly the difference that my mindset and belief allows me to make. That’s where the power is, and it’s where and how I make my decisions–through my utter belief in that which I cannot articulate. Professional development? Yes, please. A conference that takes me away from my family? Yes, please. An MCLI workshop that forces me to drive an hour in rush-hour traffic in a direction I never go in? Yes, please. I accept these opportunities for professional growth because even though I don’t know specifically how I make a difference, I know, deep down, that I do. And that’s what keeps me moving forward semester after semester, year after year, even on the rare days that begin with inadvertent submersion of my elbow into a pile of waiting cat puke.