There’s something about the timelessness of the water in direct contrast to the constantly changing nature of the sand that makes the
In something that feels similar to the changing of the season, our profession affords us the opportunity to pause, to reflect, to assess, to regroup, to restart with each new school year.
While visiting the Dunes inJuly of 2008, my family was visited there by old friends. Retired educators themselves, this couple were visiting the Dunes for the first time in over 15 years (health, age, and opportunity delaying a sooner return). While flying kites with the kids, I noticed Jim walking alone making his way up the beach along the water’s edge . . . cane in one hand, sack in the other.
After a time, and as the day was warm, I walked to him to offer a bottle of water. Always gracious in receiving me, a large grin broke across his face. In thanking me for the cool drink, I inquired as to the collection in his bag. “Of all the rocks on the beach,” he said, “I look for the ones with the mark.” Reaching into his bag he produced a small sandstone rock with a perfectly shaped hole in its center. “Given time and water, the sand will make its mark.”
In the days following our exchange, I returned to the beach now with an eye for, the rocks“with the mark.” “Looking for ‘holey’ rocks,” I thought to myself, “must be a popular Dunes pastime, because there are many, many, more rocks without holes than with.” I became persistent in my quest (much to the chagrin of my wife and the kids).
As I sought out parts of the beach that weren’t frequented, I noticed rocks of all shapes and sizes . . . with holes! (HA! Where are the Mrs. and the kids now! ) The holes, themselves, were of different sizes and were found in different places in the respective rocks. I even noticed that some rocks bore multiple holes. Rocks of all shapes and sizes, with holes of different size and locale . . . but all being left “with a mark.”
It seems to me that our students come to us in “all shapes and sizes.” Each one has a history that has begun shaping and sizing the talents and abilities, intellect and experiences as well as the hopes and aspirations that they possess.
Each of us has the unique opportunity, in the lives of those we influence, to help shape those lives for the good. Each of us has the unique opportunity . . . to make a mark . . . to leave a mark.
But, in similar fashion to that of the sand grain, it may take time and persistence on our parts to make and see the mark we leave. Perhaps all we can do is start the hole that another colleague will grow, or even finish, in the lives of our students. This won’t make our work with them any more insignificant as our setting the stage made the mark possible in the first place.
It may be, like me in seeking out remote parts of the beach, that we will have to go to new and unfamiliar places with our students in order to find the right conditions in which to leave a mark. Marks can be made, in even the toughest "rocks," when providing the right circumstances.
On my desk sets an Indiana Dunes sandstone with a single hole in its center. It serves as a constant reminder to me that we all have an opportunity to make a mark . . . to leave a mark.
I wish you all the best in your "mission field," whether that be in education or other, in leaving your mark. I’m pulling for you!