Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Vision Worthy to Embrace

This is part of a talk I gave recently on
encouraging educators to "hang in there" in their
ongoing endeavor to make a difference in young people’s lives.

Vital to society are women and men who are committed to the vision of providing quality education for today’s students.

Now I do not use the term vision lightly. I believe that in any endeavor – whether it be in business, sports, parenting, teaching – without a vision of some greater good to be accomplished, without a vision of a better or preferable future, then the sustainability of that endeavor diminishes with time.

Novelty, freshman enthusiasm, excitement at the beginning of the journey will eventually wane. Although mountain top experiences, renewal conferences, and rewards for jobs well done are all very important, it is the vision of what you want to accomplish with your life or your career that keeps you in the game until the job is done.

The challenge for many people is that they do not have a vision big enough to sustain them long-term. Most people are living too shallow a dream, so no wonder they’re frustrated when the initial enthusiasm wears off. A big vision will answer that challenge.

You’ve heard this quote. The saying has been attributed to Victor Hugo, "Dream no small dreams. They have not the power to stir men’s souls." The bible puts it like this: "Without a vision, the people perish."

I want to make the case that assisting in the maturation process of young adults into healthy, well-rounded, individuals who can better society because of the skills you as a teacher handed down to them is a worthy vision to embrace.

Let me repeat that. Assisting in the maturation process of young adults into healthy, well-rounded, individuals who can better society because of the skills you handed down to them is a worthy vision to embrace.

For three reasons...

Number 1 - It's a vision that goes beyond one's self. Some people dream big dreams, but it's all about themselves. They're building their own little kingdoms. But when the goal is simply personal accomplishment or advancing up the career ladder or enlarging a resume - as wonderful as these things might be - the end result doesn't ultimately satisfy.

Why? Because once the goal is achieved, the champagne is gone, and the party is over, then what? You're back to square one. Have to set a new goal in order to capture that winning feeling again. Otherwise we end up living in the past. Do you think the Green Bay Packers are still celebrating their victory over Kansas City in Super Bowl 1 in1967? No. That would be crazy. Notice I didn't ask if the Chiefs were still nursing their loss!

But you get what I'm saying. For a vision to truly satisfy and sustain a person throughout his or her career, it must go beyond one's self and impact others. And helping transform young kids into mature adults is a worthy vision because it does just that.

Reason Number 2 - It's a vision that requires the help of others. Any worthwhile effort is a team effort. If you got there alone, it probably wasn't very challenging or notable. Leadership guru John Maxwell describes this as the Law of Mt. Everest. The bigger the mountain to climb, the more help you need to get to the top.

Helping young people grow into productive citizens is not a one person job. Can't be done. Without meaning to sound political here, it does take a village to raise up a youth. That is why parents have entrusted into your care a portion of the education of their children. And we are all stewards of that trust.

Whether you're part of a church, or an extended family, or coaching a sports team, or sponsoring an after-school club or activity, or simply fulfilling your role as the 3rd hour shop teacher - you are a vital part of that child's success in life. And so is the 4th hour teacher next door or the youth director at church or the tennis coach at school. We're on the same team, friends, working together to fulfill the same vision.

The vision of raising up successful young people is a worthy vision - one that I believe will sustain a person throughout his or her career - because, Number 1, it goes beyond one's self, its focus is on helping others; Number 2, it requires the help of others, it is such a grand task that it can not be accomplished alone; and Number 3 . . .

Number 3 - It is a vision that creates an impact that will last beyond our lifetime.

Pursuing an ideal - the ideal of getting better at teaching and impacting more and more students and making a difference with our lives - will keep us going when the going gets tough. Or at least should keep us going.

For without a vision the people perish. And so to be a part of a vision that will last generations is a wonderfully fulfilling thing. What a refreshing, sustaining endeavor. To be a part of something that will have a potentially eternal impact on a student's life.

And you know what I'm talking about. How many of you can remember from your high school days that one key teacher in your life. That person who was a mentor, encourager, and friend. You remember! She believed in you. He told you you could do it. She was there when you needed a shoulder to cry on. He was like a father-figure to you.

My mentor, encourager, and friend was Mr. King. He was my high school history teacher but I don't even remember him for that. I remember him as the man who was there to help me come into my own. You see, he taught all 6 of my older brothers and sisters. Three of whom got straight As and went on to get their PhDs in Computer Science, Nuclear Physics, and Physical Chemistry. I'm okay on the computer, nuclear anything scares me, and the only physical chemistry I experienced in high school was in the back seat of my girlfriend's chevy.

So I grew up thinking I had a long way to go to measure up. He put me at ease. He encouraged me to be myself. He assured me I'd make it to the college of my choice. He celebrated with me when I won some awards. And, oh yeah, he taught be a bit of history. I got a B in his class, but he helped turn me into an A+ individual.

And you have a similar story. What's more, just like that teacher had an impact in your life, you are that person to some of your students. You're changing lives. You are making an incredible impact. Even on those darkest days when you think the kids could care less! But you can make the difference. You are making the difference. That's why you teach.

So keep your eye on the prize - keep striving for the ideal, the vision of helping transform young adults into healthy, well-rounded individuals who can better society because of the skills you handed down to them. That is a worthy vision to embrace. And it will sustain you for the long haul.

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