After my first year in education, full of daunting challenges on a steep learning curve, it was finally summer vacation.  Two days of hassled travel and we were finally on the beach with a good book.  After walking one hundred yards on the warm white sand beach of Lake Michigan, I planted my chair just out of the reach of crashing waves.  I picked up the first book on a short stack, chosen randomly from the growing ‘I’m-going-to-get-around-to-those-someday’ section of the bookcase.  “Life is difficult,” the under statement of the century, opens Scott M. Peck’s classic, A Road Less Traveled.

 I laughed out loud, more freely that I had for a year, put the book down and watched the kids playing in the waves.  “To be more specific,” I thought, “education is difficult!”  Still in love with the mission, less naive about the challenges, I had spent a year saying and doing stupid things, feeling totally overwhelmed, and frustrated by a level of complexity unapparent to the casual observer. 

 What must have been an hour later, I picked up the book and tried again.  Peck points out that love is extending one’s self to serve another person’s growth.  In this sense, teaching is the essence of love. To teach is to leave a legacy of expanded human potential. It is a calling that every man, women and child has the opportunity to participate in – the highest calling of human existence and the greatest gift of the human spirit.  

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Tom Vander Ark is author of Difference Making at the Heart of Learning, The Power of Place, Better Together, Smart Parents, Smart Cities and Getting Smart. He is co-founder of Getting Smart and serves on the boards of Education Board Partners, 4.0 Schools, Digital Learning Institute, Latinx Education Collaborative, Mastery Transcript Consortium and eduInnovation. Follow Tom on Twitter, @tvanderark.


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