Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Finding Beauty

This summer has been one filled with travel. A few weeks ago I accompanied my wife to Florida as she attended a class for her school. The weather was so hot, it was hard to enjoy, but there were moments that were so incredible, it was hard not to be swept away. We walked on the beach near sundown every evening...feet in the water.

Currently, we are working our way back home from the longest trip we've ever taken. Our first night away from home, after a ten hour drive, was in Newark, Ohio. The city resembled Stars Hollow from the show The Gilmore Girls. Sweet and peaceful. There was a gazebo and a little band play in it. The stuff of TV shows. We fell in love s little.

Next we went to King of Prussia. Nothing beautiful to be seen. An outrageous mall. The people weren't friendly...and rain.....lots of rain...just a pretty unhappy time. However, by luck of the GPS, our trip into Philadelphia was outstanding. We somehow ended up on the scenic route. Beautiful old buildings and lovely colleges. (Plus "Insomnia Cookies" served warm)

Philadelphia is not a beautiful city. In fact, it ranks amongst my least favorite. But, if you know a little secret, you can find a stunningly breathtaking view. Floor 33 of the Loews after dark.

After the ISTE conference, we drove to New York City...where beauty abounds. The buildings, Central Park, Broadway theaters...a wonderful place to visit.

The final stop on our journey is Hannibal, MO. My wife is taking a class this week. Hannibal is a river town.....if you know what I mean. Somewhat dirty, gritty, and filled with the kind of places I don't usually go. Last night, I had to drive my wife out to the Tom Sawyer's Cave and  on my way back, I was a mile or so away from the town and, from above and a ways a way, it's a beautiful town. Even a river town can look beautiful from the right vantage point. Which leads me to my point....

Students are a bit like cities....sometimes you have to find the right vantage point in order to see the beauty. Sometimes, it's easy. Like walking through the gates of Central Park. Open and friendly, awaiting your arrival.

Sometimes, however, the beauty is not as easy to find....like in Philly. You have to know the right time and the right place. You have to search. It's there, it's just waiting to unfold. Often, however, it's not as easy as  a clandestine elevator ride. Sometimes there is a lot of searching involved. The thing is, with kids, most of the fortress around them was built through years of dealing with things you will
never know about....but the searching is important.

Finally, changing perspective. There is a famous scene in Dead Poet's Society where Robin Willams' character asks students to climb onto a desk and say something to feel a different perspective. Shortly after watching that film, I took a trip with students. We went to this beautiful but icy waterfall. I fell and hit my head really hard, busting my glasses. Of the five kids that were with me, only one made the effort to come and make sure I was ok. It was the student that I knew the least....the student I was not that close to. Message received. I had to look at them through a different lens (no pun intended). Like my trip back into Hannibal....seeing things from a different vantage point is helpful....and sometimes painful,

The takeaway from all of this......If you look for beauty, you find beauty. The opposite is also true.
What are you looking for?

Now, if you took all my words at face value, it would seem like I am the greatest teacher ever....like I have all the answers. I am not and I do not. This message is one that I continually work on. Last year, I had a student that was so difficult, I never found the beauty or the good. It was the hardest time of my teaching career. I never stopped trying, but that goodness was buried deep. I am ashamed that I couldn't reach that one. I am not ashamed that I didn't stop trying. One other confession. Kids get a million chances with me....adults only a few. It's a character flaw. I'm working on it. Lucky for me, I've found a group of friends who found the good in me.

So, what is it you're looking for?