ACE logo

When Passing Notes Is a Good Thing

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Education is a wildfire.

And a single educator is but a flickering of this timeless flare, hoping to shed some light where there is darkness.

I've come to see myself not as some unerring fountain of knowledge, but an active participant in a dynamic process. I stand not alone, but on the shoulders of those who came before me; those courageous educators who kept the light of knowledge burning, and passed the torch of inspiration.

Like any flame, I, too, require fuel, a life-giving breath of oxygen.

And it is here that I find myself just as much a student as I am a first-year teacher. My students, this community, and God who keep my soul alight. It is their joyful curiosity, their tried endurance, and their boundless love that lead me through each day.

Take for example:

Another school day comes to its close and I find myself spent. The sum of every mental note, committed appointment, and striving self-reflection coalesce in a spinning slurry of to-dos. But it is just then that a fifth grader enters with a shy smile and turns my world back upright. With a simple note of honest gratitude, she has made my world stand still. And in a flash of light and love, my self-doubting pales.student letter 1

If teaching has taught me anything, it is that my students have much to teach me. And as their reciprocated student, I can always use the review.

These sixty-two bright, burning coals remind me who I am and who we are together. Even when the class ceiling leaks, the projector bulb is kaput, and I have deemed my lesson plan a painfully flawed attempt at improvement, their stretching smiles and accepting laughter join my own to radiate God's love anew.

In innocently reminding me of my imperfections, from in-quiz typos to the belt I forgot to wear, they help me focus on what matters most.

And all the more they demonstrate, if only subtly, their depth of appreciation for my efforts, indeed my presence in their lives. From the student who chooses to confide in me the turmoil stemming for his parents' bitter divorce to the chorus of elation proclaiming my arrival at soccer, I will forever remain a student of their beautiful humanity. Each day, they remind me that I belong here, that this is part of His plan, and that I am enough.

All the communicated knowledge in the world cannot amount to true education, if one's heart and soul remain unchanged. More than my assessments, more than our outcomes, if anything, it is my character these students will remember. Those quiet moments of enacted humility, courageous honesty, and enduring care. The shared fires of inspiration and motivation hold the promise to brighten our world. First year teachers remain but single tongues of flame, but with the warmth of God's love enveloping us, we might just set the world ablaze.

And so I return to a quote now seared into the fiber of my teaching. I behold each of my students anew, as precious lanterns of untold potential. They stand not as empty minds to be filled with information, but smoldering tinder, just waiting to ignite. I pause, thanking God for the privilege to let my life's vocation reach them, wondering with a smile just how far their lights shall shine.