When I saw the hickory nuts spread out on the grass beside my house this morning, I thought, strangely enough, about teaching. I find my work in the classroom to be almost always a pleasurable enterprise, but there are times when I need to be, you might say, as hard as the shell of a hickory nut. In the midst of teaching a lesson, occasionally I must present a severe -- even stern -- exterior to the students. I need to sometimes remind them that I am absolutely serious about keeping their attention and teaching them something. It’s not easy to break open a hickory nut, and I need to occasionally demonstrate for the students that my steadfastness is of a sound and indestructible sort. On the other hand, there’s a softer seed inside the hickory nut, a seed that may eventually sprout and produce a prosperous tree, and there’s always, I hope, a softer side to Mr. Salsich that my students can easily see. In every essential way, gentleness is the strongest of all the teaching virtues, and I trust my students can sense the gentleness nestled inside my sometimes steely appearance. Like the hardest hickory nut, I need to be hardy and durable on the outside, but hopefully there’s always a promising seed hiding inside.
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