Most teachers know very little about what happens to the vast majority of their students. For a few months, we are front and centre in our students’ lives and then it comes to an end. Students leave, move on, transfer, graduate and, usually, we never see or hear from them again. Teaching is the great open-ended narrative, the perpetually unfinished symphony. And, like all great fragments, a good portion of it works on through our imaginations as we wonder what may have happened to former students. Many students leave our classrooms, walk out into the world and never give us, our lessons, maybe even our subjects, another thought. Maybe some students put their learning to some use down the road, whether or not they remember our names. Months or even years after they’ve graduated, students may develop an interest in a topic that they first learned about in our classrooms. Without even realising or crediting us for it, a student may understand some allusion, get more out of some film, contribute to some conversation, figure out some mathematical equation or make sense of some scientific data all because of something we said or did. Teachers want to believe that what they do in the classroom matters, that it has helped to shape their students’ sense of the world and is responsible, in some small way, for their sense of self and belonging.
If teaching is an act of faith, then we need to believe in order to do our jobs.