Other Data: 20 Signs You’re Actually Making A Difference As A Teacher

This post has been updated and republished

How can you know if you’re really making a difference as a teacher?

You plan. You assess. You network. You collaborate.

You tweet, differentiate, administer literacy probes, scour 504s and IEPs, use technology, and inspire thinking. And for all of this, you’re given bar graphs on tests to show if what you’re doing is actually making a difference. But there are other data points you should consider as well.

20 Signs You’re Actually Making A Difference As A Teacher

1. Students ask great questions.

2. Students seem to improve in other ‘areas’ outside of your class.

3. Students’ ‘self-talk’ improves.

4. You notice how students talk to one another ‘improves’–becomes more human and kind or complex or creative–over time.

5. Shy students are willing to contribute.

6. Both students and parents seem to genuinely trust and ‘like’ you.

7. Your students ‘grow’–and want to show you how.

8. Students are willing to try and ‘fail forward’ because they trust you.

9. Students transfer their learning from the classroom to their lives.

10. You make one another laugh; students seem genuinely happy.

11. Students seem grateful in your classroom.

12. Students feel safe in your classroom.

13. Students understand mindset and work ethic are more important than tests and grades.

14. Over the course of the year, students seem interested in ‘more’–topics, questions, activities, friendships, projects, etc.

15. Student attendance seems (positively) affected by your teaching.

16. Students mimic your enthusiasm (for reading, content, learning, etc.)

16. Students look for (and discuss) the relevance/utility of lessons.

17. Your lessons and units change over time (in response to a changing world).

18. You (fluidly) shift from teacher to coach to mentor to friend to teacher again.

19. You listen to students and, more and more, they’re willing to talk.

20. You’ve helped a student choose their ‘work’ or career.

21. Students mention you to other teachers or school staff.

22. You find yourself learning from students.

23. One of your students becomes an educator.

24. You’re asked for a letter of recommendation.


  1. Great article! There are so many more…..10 years later your student tells you they saved your assignments, years after leaving they come to you to borrow books, they return to your class for essay help, they open a line for you at check out, they rush over to introduce their family, they call for advice from college, years late they tell you how they love reading, you get the biggest scoop of ice cream, they invite you to landmark events, they talk to you after class, they smile, they share favorite books or movies with you, etc…….How is this for value added?

  2. I love this! A couple more to add. When students you don’t know ask to switch into your class or when current students ask if they can have you again next year.

  3. What an inspiring, encouraging list. Thanks for sharing; I agree 100% with your conceptions of what constitutes great to excellent teaching.

    The flip side could be “If you look down this list and find nothing you can say ‘Yes’ to, you shouldn’t be in the classroom”.

  4. Great article! Love all 20! Just hate that it is made out that administrators are the bad guys. Many administrators, mine included, do have to pay attention and take notice of things such as test results, but also are some of the best mentors and encourage students on a daily basis. As the testing coordinator and intervention specialist on my campus I serve in an administrative role in which assessments are one piece that we look at in helping the whole child find success in school. Thanks for the reminder of all the great things we do as educators.

  5. I would add a few as well:

    * When every student, from high ability to struggling, has been challenged to work hard, grow, and overcome obstacles.

    * When dialogue in your classroom demonstrates respect for all participants, even on tough subjects.

    * When parents feel like partners in education, not homework taskmasters.

    * When you’ve fought for the need of a student all the way up to district administration – even if you didn’t win.

  6. Keep the additions coming–we’ll use them to make a second list of teacher voices.

  7. When a student tells you they love Monday because it is the day they have your class!

  8. I recently had the experience of discovering the substitute teacher in the room next door to me was a former kindergarten student of mine. It was rather troubling at first (have I really been doing this THAT long!?) but I now take pride in that! My former students regularly come back to visit me. That is something I’m really going to miss…

  9. Bringing your own raw material to class is a good one. I teach statistics and I do a weekly, “What Dr. De Mars is working on today” where I show them the code, the data and the problems of something I did that week that relates to the topic. Seldom is it textbook perfect.

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  11. Nice article. Teachers always wear a beautiful smile on their face and that is what make them the best. I feel teachers are the ones who are always going to be with the kids and they have a very great role to play. My daughter studies in Greenwood High School and must tell you, the teachers are the real angels – this is how my daughter refers them as.

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