My own feeling is that we are all much stronger than we suppose ourselves to be. And we’re also more fragile than any of us care to find out.
Figuring out a way to push the former without forgetting the latter can be a tough tightrope to walk.
In life, I feel, we want to “push it”. It feels good to push it. It’s personally rewarding. Human beings, it seems to me, were built for accomplishment. It’s when we are at our best. (And our worst as well, it could easily be argued.) But as I [unfortunately] know, sloth feels gross and though it can be an easy trap of dysfunction to fall into (rest and laziness are not the same thing… and laziness can be a spectacularly slippery slope) it is also something against which we need to all vigilantly guard.
Particularly when it comes to working with young people. In a way, one of our common core goals as teachers, no matter what we teach, is to set the table for kids in a way that allows them to bring out their best.
The poet Taylor Mali offers some great insight in his poem “What Teachers Make” that says,
You want to know what I make?
I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.
I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional medal of honor
I love that line… real teachers truly “get” it.
But the “when to push and when not to” dilemma eventually confronts us all when we work with kids. Whether they be our own children or other people’s kids, guiding youth, as the cliche goes, doesn’t come with a playbook.
The school year is over in just over a month for me. Did I push hard enough? Did I push too hard? Like I said above, my own feeling is that we are all much stronger than we suppose ourselves to be. And we’re also more fragile than any of us care to find out.
Are our best teachers not the ones who teach us about our edges, seeing more in us than we ever really saw in ourselves?