A story by Kahlil Gibran
I was strolling in the gardens of an insane asylum when I met a young man who was reading a philosophy book.
His behavior and his evident good health made him stand out from the other inmates.
I sat down beside him and asked:
‘What are you doing here?’
He looked at me, surprised. But seeing that I was not one of the doctors, he replied:
‘It’s very simple. My father, a brilliant lawyer, wanted me to be like him.
“My uncle, who owns a large emporium, hoped I would follow his example.
“My mother wanted me to be the image of her beloved father.
“My sister always set her husband before me as an example of the successful man.
“My brother tried to train me up to be a fine athlete like himself.
“And the same thing happened at school, with the piano teacher and the English teacher – they were all convinced and determined that they were the best possible example to follow.
“None of them looked at me as one should look at a man, but as if they were looking in a mirror.
“So I decided to enter this asylum. At least here I can be myself.’
This story just strikes a chord with me. It almost haunts me. How much truth is in this? As parents it takes a lot of willpower to not force your kids to be like you. Do you know how much it kills me to see my son have zero interest in sports? Yes, I could force him into everything, but why would I do this. He is such a cool kid with a passion for the outdoors, bugs, animals, and just building things.
As a teacher, we have to try our hardest to keep students engaged. We must not try to convey that we are the best, but simply one more element in their lives to make them find themselves.
As a teacher I realize how easy it is to think that what we are teaching is the most important. However, when we take a step back we are not the most important. As a whole institution we are important, but not independently and as a sole individual.
Think about all the ways in which we are pulled as adults. Multiply that by about 10 and we are back in middle school and high school. I think what is most important for us to do is not pull, but rather offer structure to help the youth find their way without losing their vision of themselves. The ones that lose their vision of where they want to be are the ones that find themselves in a whirlwind.
Offer guidance, but not by grabbing shirtsleeves and feeling that we are the most important. We are just one pebble in the river my good friends.