The struggle: Teaching in South Korea

As a teacher, I am prone to moments of sheer panic. Moments when I suddenly wonder “what if I never make a difference?” I started teaching so that I could inspire the next generation like my teachers inspired me. It is universally accepted that teachers are perhaps the most important people in the process of shaping the citizens of tomorrow. Yet there are these moments, when my breathe gets caught in my throat and all I can think of is “What have I done?”. There have been no students whom I have saved from like altering decisions, no class of delinquents that I turned for the better, heck, I don’t even know if I have even impacted my students in the academic sense. After I begin to think this way, the waves of doubt come flooding in like the tide in summer. I start to panic, filled with thoughts like “what if I never impact anyone?”

If you are a teacher, you might have had similar thoughts and panic attacks. This is because teaching is one of the only professions where you rarely see the fruits of your own labor. You might never know the impact you had on little jimmy, because though he will remember you for his entire life, he may never get the courage to come find you and tell you what your words meant to him and his life. Even if he does, it will probably be years down the road. meanwhile you have taught a thousand other children, each with their own stories and problems. As a teacher you want to help and impact each and every one of them, but some days it’s hard to be inspired when you can’t see if what you are doing, is making a difference at all.

Some days it’s difficult to get up out of bed, some days I forget why I worked so hard to get here in the first place. Some days all I can think to ask myself is “Is what I do even worth it? Do I even matter?”

That’s when I struggle to remember a mantra that kept me going through my 24 hour shifts working in the education lab, kept me going through the days I had to go cry in the bathroom at my clinicals. It’s a mantra that has helped me push away the panic and negative thoughts, and find a renewed source of energy in my teaching. It’s simple, just two words, “Just one”.

“Just one”…that’s it.

Here’s the reason why,

Though you might have become a teacher, like me, because you wanted to impact hundreds of students, whole classes, whole schools. The simple truth is, it’s all worth it if you impact just one. For me, the hours and stress spent working towards my licensee. Every administrator, fellow teacher and aggravating student. Every little thing that works up to make teaching such a difficult job, it’s all worth it if I can positively impact just one.

To me, it’s enough if during my whole career as a teacher, that is just one student that counts me as a major influence in his or her own life. If, at the end of my life, there is just one students who still remembers me, it’s all worth it. Because to even have had that opportunity to affect another human being, to me, that’s what makes teaching worth it. It’s a difficult job, to be sure, and you need passion for it or you will fizzle out or become bitter quicker than you’d think. But if you ever find yourself in a panic, wondering, like I often do, if what you do even matters, remember;

“Just one.”

                                                                                                       Betsey