Math teachers know when a student has learned a new formula. The shop teacher sees the results of classroom instruction. But the fact is that teachers of high school and college English classes never know for sure what they have contributed to a student’s achievement. Oh, yes, we may see improvement in students’ command of language and their understanding of nuances of literature. But how much of that came from natural talent or practice or from the work of a previous teacher?
So, like the others, we plug along, do the best we can, and try to adopt that fundamental premise of any profession dealing with people: “First, do no harm.” Inevitably, we do, though. We are human, after all. So, to all those students I may have short-changed or ignored or hurt in some way, I offer my apologies. And to ALL of you—know that teacher appreciation goes both ways. I am truly grateful for the things you taught me and the things you made me learn.