Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Like most people, I've always loved the look of majestic mountains, but lately I've been pondering the interesting fact that without valleys, there would be no mountains. It may seem like an obvious fact not worth mentioning, but in order for mountains to stand out in all their grandeur, they have to have valleys as foregrounds. If there were no valleys, the earth would be one immense mountain, which means it would be totally flat. Nothing would stand above because nothing would lie below. As often happens with newly realized truths, I've been applying this to my teaching, and intriguing ideas have emerged. Like any teacher, I want my students to "stand out" -- to rise to their highest level of achievement -- to be, I guess we could say, like magnificent mountains. What I'm realizing, though, is that this means I must be the valley. If my students are going to be conspicuous as exemplary scholars, that means there must be an inconspicuous foreground -- a valley behind which their greatness can stand out. Their lights will be bright only if there's darkness around them -- and, odd as it sounds, I must be that darkness. I've always intuitively felt that humility plays a significant role in successful teaching, and these reflections only reinforce that idea. As the teacher, I must be less and less and my students must be more and more. My job is to shrink while they grow. If I lie low, they will rise and shine.

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