Sunday, February 1, 2009

How Can We Be Great?

As teachers, one of the most critical parts of our job is to be reflective. In the biz they say, ‘ If no one is learning, no one is teaching’. So we strive to understand if our message is getting through. We are asking ourselves what is our message and what message do they, our students, want to hear. This morning, I page through a book Miriam showed me. It is a collection, almost a scrapbook, of a young man who grew up outside of Nairobi, I think. He, at a young age, began to photograph life around him. He was the son of a British reporter and as such, was able to travel extensively, documenting everything he encountered. After he was killed, caught up in a riot he was covering, his mom published some of his work, mostly collaged photos. He died at age 24 and he already had left so much greatness in the world.

Looking at his collages, I feel a connection to a kindred soul. Wanting to identify with the multiple layers of life we encounter around the world each day. I think about my life and where it is headed, I begin to realize that I want to do something great. Of course, initially, I think we as humans, see greatness as evidenced in some type of recognition. A book, a statue, degrees, titles, awards, etc. I realize that our drive to be great is possible every day. When I think of how I can be great, over a lifetime, it is to instill this desire to be great in the youth. It is a numbers game. I can devote my life to achieving greatness in and of my own, small chunk of time I have here on earth. I can multiply this effect, pushing our humanity towards the harmonious side of life, by instilling this in kids.

A dear teacher, mentor and, now as I am an adult, a friend, tells me during our annual conversations that he wonders what his legacy will be. He has been teaching us for decades. I tell him that his legacy is within those of us whom he challenged, reprimanded, confided in and told stories to. It is because of him and others who painted a picture of grandeur in my life, that I strive to always ask where else, or what more?

I think we find ourselves with a difficult question at this time in human history, why am I important? The world, with all of our advancements, is becoming increasingly smaller. Along with this, is a growing monopoly of global power. As a teacher, it is difficult to prepare my students to solve the many puzzles we are facing at present. We look at political, social and economic situations around the world, and strangely enough, the similarities far outweigh the differences. The struggle of the masses to simply live, peacefully, as the power and economic prosperity becomes restricted to a few.

This is our mission. In class, we have a saying to get everyone back together after group work. I say ‘knowledge is’ and the students respond, ‘power’. If this is true, then we all, especially with the availability of information, have access to power. Although we are constantly barraged by vague, depressing, sensationalized information, we are important in the history of the world. We can confront ignorance and greed in our daily lives. This is how we become great.

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