Thursday, July 28, 2011


"Zion Late Afternoon", oil, by Becky Joy
When a friend said yesterday that she was surprised that her sister gave up teaching – gave up what my friend said was a job “on the mountaintop” of all professions – I felt silently grateful that I have had the privilege of working on this grand mountaintop for many decades. My friend understood something I’ve known for years – that giving the gift of new learning, or at least making the gift more possible, can make a teacher’s life something like a marvel. Mountains can make you feel fulfilled when you reach their summits, but something far more special occurs when a student’s eyes start shining with newborn wisdom. I’ve been to the tops of real mountains, and yes, it’s spectacular, but I’ve also been to the tops of classroom mountains – those peaks that you can’t prepare for because they usually soar up suddenly like new lights in the darkness – and honestly, I’m confident that no actual mountain peak can compare. After all, what actual mountain summit can you stand on almost every day and see lives transforming before you – lives sometimes turning inside out as they think intensely about stories or poems? What Appalachian peak can compare to the view across a classroom of students who have sincerely -- and sometimes joyously -- received the blessing of brand new knowledge? I trust my friend’s sister had good reasons for turning away from teaching, for no one would unthinkingly give up the chance to stand on genuine summits day after day.

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