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Why I Teach by Amanda Diffley

The faces walking through my door fill me with excitement about the potential for reaching my students.

As I drive in to Foote each morning from Old Saybrook, if I am not chatting with my son Ryan about afternoon logistics or his latest assignments, I am usually thinking about my third grade students.

I wonder how a quiet girl in my class is feeling, having just come back from her grandmother’s funeral, or think about a boy who was anxious about his Taekwando test the night before. Sometimes I am trying to figure out how to reach a particularly reluctant writer during our personal narrative lesson that day, or how to help a child who is struggling to learn multiplication.

After arriving in my classroom, I unpack picture books, math papers and composition books from my bags. The children begin to trickle in and I greet each one with a smile and a cheerful “Good morning!” so they know how glad I am to see them.

I slide open the dividing door to Mrs. Schnabel’s room and say hello, catching up quickly about our own children or the recipes we’ve tested on our families. We chat briefly about that day’s lunchtime affinity groups, in which children eat and chat with classmates who share a passion for sports, books, animals or other interests.

During small breaks in the day, I email a parent about how her child adjusted after a tough goodbye that morning, and check in on a student who is out sick. I read an email from a parent whose son had a challenging night of homework, and reply with suggested strategies for helping him at home.

At the end of the day, as I walk my students along the path to Loomis Place, I bump into a parent whose daughter I taught a few years ago. She gives me a hug and we exchange quick hellos. I make a mental note to follow up soon with her daughter’s Middle School advisor to see how she is doing.

These small interactions each day may seem ordinary to some, but they are at the heart of why I teach. I am constantly connecting with people on this campus who enrich my life: students past and present, colleagues and parents. I am building relationships that, in some cases, could last a lifetime.

I have been a part of the Foote community for 24 years. I still keep in touch with students from my early years here who are now having children of their own, and with colleagues who have moved all over the country and the world. 

Teaching keeps me connected in a way I never would have imagined when I began my career in my early 20s. I cannot think of many occupations where each September begins a new cycle of wonderment and challenge. The excitement and butterflies I experience each first day of school remind me of why I am here, in my classroom at Foote School, so many years later. Those magical moments, and the promising faces walking through my door, fill me with anticipation about the potential for reaching my students—through a math lesson, an interaction on the playground, a conference about their writing, or even just a hug after a tough day. And I believe that, in some small way, these connections will have a positive impact on their lives.

Amanda Diffley has taught third and fourth grades at Foote since 1994 and is the mother of Anna ’13, Liza ’15 and Ryan ’21.

Since 1916, The Foote School has provided child-centered education that nurtures creativity, excellence and joy in learning.

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