Once upon a time, there was a kingdom at the base of a great mountain. The land was rugged and life was hard, but the people persevered. Their King had led them with wisdom and fairness for many years, but now death was approaching. He called his three children to him and said, “I am dying, and one of you will succeed me as the leader of our kingdom. I want each of you to climb our mountain and bring back something beautiful. Return here in three days. Whoever brings the most wonderful gift will become the new ruler.” The children went off and each returned three days later. The first child brought their father a flower picked near the summit of the mountain; it was extremely rare and exquisite. Their father was pleased. The second child brought a gorgeous stone, smooth and colorful, having been polished by rain and wind. Again, their father was pleased. The third child approached with empty hands and said, “Father, I have brought back nothing to show you. As I stood on the top of the mountain, I saw that on the other side there is a beautiful land filled with green pastures and a crystal lake. And I had this vision of where our people could go for a better life. I was so overwhelmed with what I saw and what I could envision that I could not bring anything back. I am sorry.” To the child’s great surprise, the king answered, “You, my child, shall succeed me as ruler of our kingdom, for you have brought back the most precious thing of all – the gift of a vision for a better future.”
This amazing parable, found in many different versions, describes teaching and education perfectly. How often in my career have I looked to find the “flowers” or “stones” of our profession when my seeking a better, more powerful, more appropriate, more far-reaching, more soaring vision might have been a greater gift for my students? Often indeed.
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