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A Teacher's Dream

One of my favorite days was happening.
We all made a large circle around a picnic table covered with hamburgers, hot dogs, and every type of salad I had ever seen. It was the end of school party, at a colleague's house who lives on a lake in Nottingham, New Hampshire. The conversation started out easy and comfortable.It centered on the just-completed school year. To my dismay, most of my colleagues started to discuss how our school was being destroyed by the lack of funds, schoolboard politics, and a lack of values in the underclassmen and underclasswomen, (God, I hate being politically correct), brought to school from their homes.
The conversation also centered on how our profession was becoming the political fodder of both state and national policy. After a while, the conversation grew vicious and because I had just finished my fifth Old Brown Dog I made the mistake of opening my mouth.
"Does anyone remember why we got into teaching, in the first place?"
My question produced silence from all of my co-workers in the circle. The silence didn't last long because it was replaced by a unified display of the 'who the hell made you king of arrogance' look.
"No, I mean it! Does anyone remember the philosophy which made all of us take the vows of celibacy, servitude, and of course poverty?"
Well, a veteran history teacher, whose longevity in the school almost outweighed his size, asked me to remind them of what their philosophy was. In other words, he took me to task. Being the storyteller I am, I told the group that I would use a metaphor to describe what 'teaching' is to me.
I tell them that the beginning of each year was like taking a group of young men and women to the base of a mountain. Always observing my students, I see that they are afraid and uncomfortable with what they were expected to do. I tell them that for the next 186 days I will show them how to climb the cliffs, and reach the plateau that was above the clouds and seemingly out of reach.
Then, we start the climb by having me show them how to put one foot in front of the other; how to use their hands, legs, and more importantly their minds to reach the next stone. All my kids start to fall. I tell them that it is OK to fall; to make a mistake, because this is how we all learn, and get better at what we are trying to do. Some of my kids give up and simply fall down to the bottom of the mountain. I try and encourage them to continue but they simply do not want to take the chance to fail. I feel bad, yet I realize that I can't help everyone: I can only try.
Looking around my small group of colleagues I notice that everyone is listening. I smile, take another sip, and continue. Halfway up the mountain, I see that my kids are beginning to build up a confidence in themselves. They help each other toclimb to the next level. Every now and then a child falls, but, the farther we climb up the mountain, fewer children make the decision not to continue. Now it is no longer a case of me showing them how to climb, as they work with each other, and find easier and better ways of achieving success. Every now and then I fall and I find my students helping me now. Students become teachers. We all become one, in the knowledge that we need each other to continue, and thus succeed.
We finally reach the plateau and are dumbfounded by what we see. We observe the colors of life; the greens of their futures, the reds and oranges of their passion, and the blues of all their dreams. The air is new and clear. There are no clouds on the plateau, just an image that everything is do-able and achievable. I walk over to the edge where the view is even more dramatic and beautiful and tell them to come to the perimeter with me. They hesitate and tell me that they are still afraid. I chastise them; I teach them once more and tell them that they earned looking out at their futures. That, because of their hard work and perseverance, they have become competent in everything they attempt to do.
They come to the edge of the plateau. I push them off.
And I watch them fly!
The group surrounding the picnic table, which was now half-filled with food and empty plates, stayed silent for the next few minutes. An English teacher told me that I should write down my thoughts. I just smiled and said I probably would. I always do! The conversation then turned very positive. It became filled with hopes and visions of the next school year. Yes, a favorite day of mine was coming to an end, with another favorite day not far away.
The day when I group my students together, and tell them how we will climb the mountain



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