Pin It writing a post about it a few years ago. The basic idea is that of a man walking along the beach; he notices a boy picking up starfish. These creatures are slowly withering in the sun, so the boy tosses them back into the ocean where they can survive. When the man gives the boy the news that even his best efforts will be in vain—that there are simply far too many starfish to even begin to think that he could make a difference—the boy tells the man about how change comes to each as an individual.
As a teacher, each year I feel that I am that boy. I walk along the beach throughout the days, and I throw starfish into the vast ocean of knowledge. I relish in the thought that—while in my classroom—they are becoming so much more than what they once were. That they are being instilled with basic things that will help them to become who it is that they will one day be.
I’ve noticed that there seems to be a group of starfish that I have to keep throwing back into the ocean. Then, despite my best efforts to keep them in a place where they can survive, these same creatures crawl out of the life-sustaining waters and lie on the scorching sand where they again begin to wither away.
I pick them up over and over, throwing them into the blue waters; then, before I know it, they are again crawling out. My strength is redoubled as I center my attention these half-dozen starfish that seem to have a secret death wish.
I also discovered that I usually don’t give near enough attention to those starfish that are floating about in the shallows, and nearly nothing to those who are out in the depths. After all, I know that those starfish will be okay. These are the urchins that will make it. These are they who will survive.
The school year ended today. My two and one-half dozen students left the classroom. They had walked in this morning as fifth graders, and left as sixthers. An entire year had flown by as fleetingly as the tide.
As they filed past me, I handed them their classroom placements for next year, and I looked at each one of them as an individual starfish. I thought of the progress each of them had made—or hadn’t made—during the year. I looked at those I had worked the hardest with—but who still left the classroom pretty much the same way as they came in. Despite my best efforts, these were they who were content to laze in the blistering sands.
It was hard to watch them leave, knowing that in nine months I had so little effect them; that they were so obstinate that they were happy staying the exact same as they were.
As a teacher, I want all of my students to be successful. I want them all to achieve. I want them all to thirst for knowledge. I want them all to want to give nothing but their personal best.
Sadly, this is not to be.
Over the years I’ve learned that each must decide on their own what it is that they will do and who they will become. When I talked with a friend earlier tonight, she spoke about measuring successes in life not solely on the outcome, but on the efforts put into the endeavor—our partial successes and achievements. We should never feel that our energies are wasted when trying to help another.
As a teacher, I want my students to achieve. I would love for each of them to always do their personal best, and I will continue to help them as best as I can.
I am a thrower of starfish.
Even to those who don’t like the ocean.