The Nobility of Working with Students

I recently led a workshop for administrators at a university. Attendees were college deans, vice presidents, heads of schools and high school principals. When I placed them in small discussion groups and posed the question, “What changes do you plan to make this year?” I overheard one administrator say to his colleagues:

“I’m just biding my time until I retire in two years.”

I am sure this man was exhausted. He had probably worked for decades in schools and had “run out of gas.” But his response saddened me. Clearly, he:

  • Didn’t have it in him to make any effort to understand students today.
  • Didn’t have any more vision for creating a better future for his school.
  • Didn’t see the point in preparing the way for tomorrow’s leaders.

Far too often, our careers drift in this same fashion. Our work with students begins well. We are passionate about teaching them and building skills inside of them. We work at connecting with them and find creative ways to impart those “lessons” we know they need. But over time, we get beat up. Our ideas fall on deaf ears. Our effort isn’t always rewarded by students who are hungry to learn. In fact, quite the opposite, they appear apathetic. So, we stop trying so hard. We become frustrated and impatient when change happens slowly and eventually, we may even stop working to make positive change.

What Happens to Us?

To quote one of our new Habitudes for Life Giving Leaders®, we migrate from a “quarterback” to a “referee.” Instead of moving the ball down the field and inspiring teammates, we start looking for people who are out of bounds, so we can call fouls. We lose that fire which once burned inside of us.

Today, I simply want to remind you with a poem about the nobility of your work with students. The emerging generation is the best place to invest your time and energy. They represent the future, and while you can quickly find easier jobs, you likely won’t find a more important one.  One of my favorite poems about this simple truth is simply called, “The Bridge Builder.” I read it often.

The Bridge Builder

An old man, going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening, cold and gray,
To a chasm, vast, and deep, and wide,
Through which was flowing a sullen tide.

The old man crossed in the twilight dim;
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned, when safe on the other side,
And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim, near,
“You are wasting strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide-
Why build you this bridge at the evening tide?”

The builder lifted his old gray head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followed after me today,
A youth, whose feet must pass this way.

This chasm, that has been naught to me,
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him.”

Will Allen Dromgoole  

Don’t ever forget the nobility of your work. You can rest later. Today, those students need what you have to offer. Go build a bridge.

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The Nobility of Working with Students