We Are the Champions
Renowned American author John Steinbeck once said, “I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.” Isn’t that beautiful? You are an artist. I am an artist. We just paint/draw/sculpt the mind and soul.
However, let’s be honest. Some days it feels like we are on a much more basic level- a fingerpainting level. Some days we are just trying to make it through the day. We are attempting to prepare our students for standardized tests, seeking to influence them to make positive choices, and hoping to prepare them for real life once they leave our classrooms. It’s during this stretch of April that drags into May when I believe most educators begin to grow weary and question their influence over the semester. I know of one colleague at the moment that is considering changing her career after receiving her EOC scores. I have other friends who are simply repeating their mantra of “just hold on until June 8th.”
Here is the reality: Teaching is difficult. People and relationships are difficult. After several months of hard work, it is not uncommon to grow weary and to question whether you have made the impact you wanted this year. Yet this is the simple truth that I think we too often forget: You will not be able to change every single student, but every student you can change makes it all worth it. It is not about ensuring that every single one of your students pass the EOC; while that is an amazing goal to strive toward, your students play a very large role in your passing percentage. It is not about simply holding on until the last day of school. It is about the students. It is about making a difference in the life of each student you can while you can. It is about embracing each victory when it happens because every day will not be a victory, but when they come they can change lives and reshape futures.
I’d like to end with a story that you may have heard before, but regardless of how many times I hear it it never loses its impact on me.
Once upon a time, there was an old man who enjoyed traveling down to the ocean to think and to write. One day as he was walking along the shore, he saw a young man engaged in some sort of action further down the shore. He raced to catch up to the young man and saw that he was actually reaching down, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.
The old man came closer still and called out, "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"
The young man paused, looked up, and replied, "Throwing starfish into the ocean."
"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.
To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."
Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"
At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said,
"It made a difference for that one.” -Loren Eiseley
What you are doing has made a difference for at least one and that is why you should continue to teach your heart out this year and next year and the next. You are a “great artist,” an artist of “human mind and spirit” in the words of Steinbeck and what a calling you have chosen to follow. Stay strong and take heart, artist; you are making a difference for at least one.