We have the light, because we are a light!
First, let me say a huge thanks to Jeffry Prickett, an awesome friend (who is also on Twitter Jeffry’s Twitter) and fellow educator, who shared a powerful quote with me today, coined by the first president of Turkey, and it goes like this:
“A good teacher is like a candle- it consumes itself to light the way for others”
~ Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
So I had to read this quote a few times because it was just that packed with depth, I’d say. There are a few words that stand out to me here: candle, consumes, light, way, and others. Unpacking this quote serves as the foundation for this blog post. It is the very essence of being a teacher, an educator, a mentor, a guide.
When you think of a candle, the first thought is probably a device or item that when lit by a spark, provides heat and light to a place (perhaps a room) or a person. Candles come in many different shapes and sizes as well as colors and fragrances. Right away this aspect of a candle is comparative to the different types of people in the world. One of the greatest “unifiers” in my mind the the idea that we are not all the same. As a candle has many different physical properties, they all provide heat and light. Metaphorically speaking, Heat might be comfort or warmth or the personable nature of an individual that makes he or she relatable. Light, which we will talk more about below, creates a way to see what would not be seen without it. Considering these candle properties, it is no wonder a teacher is compared to a candle; students we interact with may lack actual heat and light, but metaphorically could lack comfort, support and guidance.
The term consume has many meanings. A definition we will work with today is to “engage fully” or “to enjoy avidly,” as provided by Merriam Webster. And as you can see above, the orange peel remains after being engaged fully. I have to say that there is a huge difference between collecting a pay check as a teacher in a classroom and doing all you can and being all you can, while you can. What greater reward is there than to know that you have worked tirelessly to shape (and instead of future, I will say) “today.” If I am not going to give something 100% of me while I am doing it, then I’d rather not do it. There is much to be said about dedication and passion. So then, the candle burns once lit and as it burns, it consumes itself. So with every new opportunity to disseminate knowledge or facilitate learning, we put our all into it, we fully embrace teaching and learning because the reward is immense. Will it be monetary? You never know. But money is of no value when compared to knowing you have lit someone else’s path.
Light is necessary in order to see your way through dark situations. Dark situations may be literal or figuratively speaking. When you walk into a dark room, it is necessary to flip the switch in most cases, in order to clearly map the path in which you will travel, to arrive at the destination, or object within the destination without incident. When there is no light, we may stumble, become injured, collide with others or things and essentially lose focus for where we were headed initially. We need the light because the light illuminates the path and clarifies the way in which we are to reach our destination(s). Students, particularly in the developmental years, need to know where to go and guidance along the way. For potentially a myriad of reasons, the light isn’t always there and if it is there for them, it is not always on, which is why as educators, we must be a light, or the light.
When you think about the word “way,” you might envision a sidewalk, a street, a highway, or maybe even a path in the water or sky. Have you ever been in the car and realized that you were going the wrong “way?” We, the educators of our students, have to show them the way, the right way, to keep them from going the wrong way. The wrong way could lead to devastation and turmoil. In their worlds, we may be the only positive, so much so they do not want to leave our classrooms or school, because they can see and feel that someone cares about their way. Another perspective would be the “way” in which students act, work, or present themselves. We do not want our students to act in a “way” that is not appropriate, therefore we work hard to build their character such that they will take it with them as they matriculate through their educational paths.
Others. Others. When you consider others, you are practicing selflessness rather than selfishness. I am in no way saying that you should not consider yourself, because there are times when you have to take care of you, because if you don’t, it is possible that no one will even notice. However, the selfless teacher knows that students have needs and regards his or her actions for the purpose and benefit of his or her students. They are the major stakeholder in our schools today, because it is the student that serves to benefit from all that we do. When our focus is on the students, or on others, we are driven to see that the students excel and learn. When we focus on others, we succeed when they succeed.