As Teachers, We’re Planting Seeds – and the World Watches Them Grow

by | 04.30.22

Ciji Thurman is a teacher in Kentucky. Follow her on Twitter @ciji_thurman.

Recently, I’ve gotten a few notes from former students that have offered me a powerful reminder: Our work takes time to reveal its impact. 

At this point in the school year, and entering the pandemic, I know all of us are tired. My teacher friends and I are busy working every day to make sure our students have the support they need, and we’re feeling that weight. I know it can sometimes get lonely, and we can even start to lose touch with our purpose. 

But when I think about the students I’ve known, and when I receive a thank-you or check-in note from a student who is in my class today, or was ten years ago, it can make my entire day. It can put a smile on my face for the rest of the week. It’s rejuvenating. It’s a reminder that, when I sit down with a student who is struggling right now, “Even when it doesn’t feel like it, we are getting somewhere together.” 

I keep my student notes in a picture box and in an email folder. Occasionally, I find myself looking back at them, but it’s also comforting just to know that they’re there. I find that seeing the impact fellow teachers are making means a lot to me, too. Years ago, I was on a tight-knit grade level team, and we shared a Google Drive with a folder that we’d drop photos and notes into that lifted each other up and share in each other’s impact. It was a way to reconnect to the big picture, to the whole.

So often in teaching, it’s like we’re growing apples. The work we do is planting trees. We’re not going to see that fruit the first day we plant. It can take years before we see the way we’ve made a difference for a particular student. But the work is worth it. Our teaching matters so much, whether we can see it in the moment or not.

On tough days, I still find that it can help to connect with our teacher friends to remember that we’re part of something bigger. That’s why I’m excited to invite you to create your own “Smile File” graphic. 


In just a couple minutes, you can create something to lift you up and reconnect you with the bigger picture. You can choose two teacher quotes and an illustration, and upload your own photo if you want, too. Then, you’ll get a digital Smile File to save or to print, to make sure you’re making time to remember: We are making a difference – in our own classrooms, and together with teachers everywhere. 

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