Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Real Maple Syrup

The farm was down the backroads of Maine and as my tiny car bumped along, I was getting a little nervous. Then from (literally) out of nowhere, a police cruiser came from the other direction. I pulled over onto the even-bumpier shoulder (read: ditch) to let him pass, and nervous became an understatement. Despite the cop's presence, I knew someone could dispose of a body out here and no one would ever know. But we were in pursuit of a year's supply of the best maple syrup I'd ever tasted, and I figured it was worth the risk; luckily, I have lived to tell the tale.

A student's success is just like that syrup. While we may not swing from telephone poles, or climb the exteriors of buildings, or dive for pearls, or mine coal, we take risks in our teaching lives that can be (dare I say?) equally as dangerous. We teachers know that we hold moments, careers, lifetimes in our hands every day, and the measures we take to protect and prepare and provide for our students can be risky. There's the pain we feel, more like a burn, when that faltering kid promises us he'll match our dedication to his academic success and then doesn't deliver, or worse, intentionally thwarts his progress. There's the anxious worry about the student who is turning inward and the subsequent angst when her parents are unresponsive to our concerns. There's the frustration of piles and piles of paperwork and lots and lots of hoops that may temporarily limit our ability to service a student adequately. And there are the sacrifices we make within our own families, sometimes to the chagrin of our parents, partners, or children, so that our students' lives are enriched. I've never heard a teacher say his job was easy. Never. But I've rarely seen a teacher give up, either.

Because the best of us don't leave it there. We forge onward, professionally and respectfully and hopefully, knowing our power, knowing the risks, and knowing our students' potential. We continue down the bumpy backroads because we know the sweetness of success. Always on the quest, we are eager, creative, determined, thoughtful, and courageous.

I wish I could bottle that.

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