I recently received the following communication from a former student: “Hello, Mr. Hoffner. I hope all is well with you! I was in your Psychology and Literature class in my senior year. I am currently working toward my master’s degree in teaching English at Columbia University. I received my bachelor’s degree from Boston University. Do you have any advice for me as I am starting my career journey to become an English teacher? Thank you.”
I couldn’t connect a face to the name as they have become blurred over the years and my advice was rather generic: “Do what you think is right. Adjust. Learn from your mistakes. Teach from your heart.”
However, this type of communication put my classroom career in a new light. The effect we have on the students in front of us is often unknown. When it becomes known, a pedagogical epiphany arises. Maybe this student could affect others as I presumably affected her, and her students could go on and make a positive contribution in some capacity. This is the potential effect and responsibility that everyone who becomes a teacher has.
We can make a difference and consequently change the world. The novice and the veteran teacher need to hear this; administrators and parents need to hear it as well. Although our role in the culture is often belittled as we are forced to fight for pay, working conditions and general acknowledgment, our influence in the classroom should never be underestimated.
Larry Hoffner, retired