The Parable of the Dung-Flingin' Educator
by: Alex Stubenbort "Circumstances are beyond human control, but our conduct is in our own power."-Benjamin Disreali
There once was a man with two children, Despair and Hope. And they couldn’t have been more different. Despair lived her days in utter dread. No matter the circumstance, Despair lacked the ability to see any silver lining. All there was, in Despair’s eyes, were bad happenings and worse happenings. This understandably drove her father nuts. Through her worldview, everything was awful. But Hope was a different story altogether. No matter how bad things seemed to get, Hope sought out the good. This, too, drove her father nuts. She seemed to lack the ability to see hardships for what they were… HARD! Instead, Hope seemed to smile through the worst of times with an almost psychotic lack of understanding of life’s inherent suckiness. But this was all going to change.
Having reached his breaking point, the father decided to take matters into his own hands. He devised a plan so diabolically ingenious that he couldn’t help but smile at the thought of it. Not being able to control his excitement, he put his plan into motion that very night. As the girls lie sleeping in their beds, their father, ever so sneakily, crept down the hallway. His first stop was at Despair’s room. Having cracked open the door to let in some light, Despair’s room was predictably painted black, the father began the process of filling Despair’s lair with every toy imaginable. From floor to ceiling there were Yo-yos and pogoes, thing-a-ma-jigs and whatchamacallits. After all was said and done, the father took a step back and said to himself with a grin, “Certainly Despair will have to be happy when she wakes to see her room full of toys.”Still reeling from the high of his first plan, the father made his way to his second daughter’s room. As he peeked in the door and saw Hope’s tooth-filled smile as she slept, he was enraged. Even in her sleep Hope was happy! This needed to stop. Ever so quietly, the father began filling Hope’s room with horse manure. From floor to ceiling, as far as the eye could see there was steaming piles of excrement. Taking a step back and gazing upon his poop-filled plan piled to fruition, he smiled and thought, “Certainly Hope will rue the day she awoke to a room full of crap.”
Unable to sleep, the father got up from his bed at precisely 6 AM to see his maniacal masterpiece with his own eyes. As he made his way towards Despair’s room he could hardly contain his excitement. As he opened the door, expecting to see Despair’s smiling face, he was taken aback as he saw her sitting amidst all of her toys sobbing violently. Hoping they were tears of joy, the father asked for clarification, “Despair, with all of these toys in your room, why on earth are you crying?” Staring back at her father with eyes laced with hopelessness, Despair responded, “Dad, if I play with all of these wonderful toys, I’m bound to break one.”
“You have got to be kidding me!” Thought the father as he stormed down the hallway. “What a miserable little girl!” But before his disappointment overtook him, he remembered the second part of his opus… Hope. He hurried down the hallway with increased fervor. The sight of Hope’s tears being the only antidote for his recent disappointment. But as he entered her room he was baffled beyond all belief. There was Hope, amidst all of this poop, smiling and laughing gleefully as she dug through fistfuls of fecal funk. Dodging dung as he entered the father was greeted by his daughter’s enthusiasm, “Dad, come help me dig!” She squealed to the old man. “With all of this manure in my room, there just has to be a horse in here somewhere!”
You see, every teacher is greeted by handfuls of “Hopes” every year. Hopes who enter our rooms with, for lack of a better word, lives filled with crap. Crap handed to them by ill-equipped families; a deteriorating society; and an ever-present pressure to fit in. And there are good teachers in this world who see Hope’s crap and are saddened by it. Their hearts melt, they feel overwhelming sympathy for Hope and for the hardships she faces. However, the last thing that Hope needs is another person feeling bad for her.
Despite these teachers having their hearts in the right place, Hope does not benefit from this type of care. What Hope needs isn’t a good teacher but a great teacher. A teacher that, despite Hope’s race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender, or sexual orientation, fights their urge to feel bad for Hope, rolls up their sleeves, and starts searching for that horse. Great teachers inspire children to see beyond their circumstances to find possibilities beyond their wildest dreams. But even as I am writing today, I know that there are some in my audience thinking, “Yeah, but some kids just have too much crap! For some kids there is no horse. There’s no pot of gold.” If you happen to be one of those people. If you tend to think that for some students, success is just beyond their capabilities, then let me be the first to cordially invite you to stop reading this post. Because if I’ve learned one thing in education, it’s that instead of naysaying, we need to be celebrating the dung-flingin’, horse-hopin’, ass-kickin’ teachers in our midst who believe that all children deserve the right to dream beyond their circumstances.