As educators, we all got into this game to have a positive impact on kids. Lately I've been thinking about what is the best way to maximize my own impact on kids. Maybe someone else out there is thinking the same thing, or maybe the way I've been thinking about this will resonate with someone. Who knows and here goes.
When thinking about the kinds of impact we can have my mind categorizes them in two ways:
Breadth of Impact - Things we do that reach a wide range of students. For myself, this includes writing my book, creating TeacherTechVids and putting it out there for free, speaking/presenting, and my current job- as tech facilitator at a middle school. These kinds of impacts are by their nature more shallow, as they don't include a personal, long-lasting connection or relationship with students. The draw here, of course, is having a positive impact on a lot of learners, known and unknown.
Depth of Impact - Things we do that reach a small range of students, such as within our classrooms, as a leader of a club, or other personal student connections made throughout a building. For myself, this includes my 6 years as a classroom teacher (2 in kindergarten, 4 in 2nd grade) and some of the work I do with kids now, leading clubs and trying to make as many deep, personal connections as possible. These kinds of impacts are the ones that last a lifetime, the ones that kids can look back on later and point to as something that changed their lives. They are deeply personal.
There is obviously room for both types of impact in our education system. I've come to believe, though, that all of us in the education system, from top to bottom, need to strive for a balance between the two.
If you reflect on your career or present position and see that you are operating almost entirely on the breadth side of things, you should be thinking about ways to cross over into ways you can have a more personal, deep impact on students under your purview. If you are an administrator, actively find ways to make this happen- whether it's hanging out with some of the more troublesome kids after school, leading a club, or even going back into the classroom for a period of time. If you are a policymaker, get yourself into a real classroom, with real students, and spend some real time with them in order to better their lives in some way.
If you reflect on your career or present position and see that you're leaning heavily to the depth of impact side of the equation, you should be seeking out ways to have a broader impact on students outside your classroom walls. Think about connecting with other educators through Twitter or blogs. Think about connecting your classroom to others around the world through services such as ePals.com. Think about publishing your own blog and sharing the great stuff you are doing (you never know what other teacher will see your ideas and try them out with their students, to great success).
For myself, in the past 4 years I have strayed too far away from the Depth of Impact side. As difficult as it can be with my current job responsibilities (I'm mired in technical difficulties and troubleshooting all too often now), I need to actively find ways to personally connect with students in my building. And if that doesn't work, maybe I'll go teach 2nd grade again (which would be AWESOME). I feel the yearning for those deep connections and I plan on being aware of it at all times this school year (and beyond).