Sometimes when I feel a little lost or disconnected from the education community I serve, I reflect back on some beginnings.
15 years ago, I began my journey as a professional in education as an Adjunct Faculty member at Indian River State College (then Indian River Community College). I taught in a GED lab for adults looking to provide more opportunities for themselves and young folks who had decided that high school wasn’t the best path forward for them.
While I didn’t realize it at the time, it was a phenomenal and powerful entry point into the world of education. For many people who work in our school systems, the last touch point is the day that students walk out the door for the final time for graduation or to pursue a different path.
I had the privilege of seeing them when they decided they wanted to persevere and start their next chapter.
Their stories were separate parts infinitely complex and incredibly simple. With intertwining personal and professional reasons for coming back to learn, I came to truly respect them all each in their own ways.
There are a few people that I still think about often from those days. One man, we’ll call him Craig, was in his mid-fifties and had spent over 30 years in construction and various trades.
My shift was from 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM each weekday (I worked from 630-430 at a local golf course, but that’s a story for another day). Craig was there everyday between 5:30 and 5:45 PM and was totally focused.
He had equal parts drive and humility. He set a goal for himself each night to complete a certain number of lessons and wouldn’t leave until he hit that mark. Craig asked questions when he was stuck. He willfully sat, learned, and reflected as we went over concepts that many folks would be embarrassed to admit they didn’t know, but Craig had a goal and was going to reach it.
This isn’t about outcomes. It isn’t about the GED that Craig went on to earn.
Even though we see many patterns and ups and downs in our lives as educators, every once in a while we’ve got to re-center ourselves, regardless of role, on the idea that our work truly has impact.
It creates opportunities.
It shapes lives.
It changes the future.
It makes a difference.
YOU make a difference.