Beyond the




The Moment of Impact: Small Efforts Can Create Big Changes

The Moment of Impact: Small Efforts Can Create Big Changes

You might never know how your opinion encouraged your student to choose a particular career path.

You may never know the kind of impact you had on your students. When you discover it, though, treasure the moment.  

It could be something as simple as my experience last summer at my school STEM camp when I saw Mark there, a senior volunteering as a mentor to younger students at the camp. During one of the breaks, I asked Mark what he wanted to be after he graduated.

“You already asked me that,” he said.

“I did?”

“Yeah, at Camp Buck Toms,” he reminded me. “We were putting together a radio. You told me to read ‘Calculus Made Easy.’”

I had completely forgotten about Mark and putting the radio kit together that summer five years earlier. But I quickly remembered about that time, when I was his camp counselor at Camp Buck Toms Scout Camp on the shores of Watts Bar Lake in Roane County, Tennessee. 

When Mark told me, then, that he wanted to be some type of engineer, I told him that meant lots of math and referred him to the calculus book. I never knew that this would register with a 12-year-old scout. 

“Wow, OK, I had forgotten about that. Did you like the book?”

“Oh yeah, it was great,” he said. “I read it and went to a used bookstore and bought some Calculus books. I worked every problem in them and took the AP exam for Calculus. I made a five on it. I didn’t even have to take Calculus at Hardin Valley.”

I was speechless. A simple comment I made five years ago helped a student unlock a passion for math that enabled him to not only learn, but earn college credit for a course he did not take in high school.

Further reading: Guiding Students

You never know the impact that you will have on a young person. Whenever you have contact with a student, ask about their goals and what they want to be when they grow up. Give them a suggestion that will help set them on that path.

Here’s a few more ways to inspire and build a relationship with your students:

  • Stay positive and proactive through their mistakes and struggles. Try to find the silver lining in the struggle by asking, “Do you think this will be a big deal five years from now?”
  • Know they are going through more emotionally and academically than they will reveal. You often have to ask and ask until you draw it out.
  • When they tell you something, ask them more about it, such as how they feel about the situation.
  • Give the student feedback. Tell them about an experience you had that was similar and how you were able to cope. Or share a challenging story about yourself when you were a teenager, and how after all these years, it’s something you can laugh at.
  • Find out what they want to be and relate a positive experience you have had with that occupation, or refer them to someone who is successful in that field.
  • Help students know they are the most important person in the world and it’s not a bother to you when they approach you before or after the school day. You will be a safe, non-judging resource for your students.  

Further reading: 3 Ways to Excite and Encourage Girls in STEM

Making a difference in your students’ lives is a matter of watching for the random opportunities to learn about their interests, or challenges, and offering ideas or solutions. It takes a moment more of your time, but the return on the investment can last their lifetimes.