- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Ships from: Baltimore, MD
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
Parents are our first teachers and the ones who care most about us. But sooner or later there comes a time when those first teachers must step aside. But even when they do, they agonize, wondering if they made the right decision.
The September morning was calm and bright. The town looked fresh and shining and very American. We drove slowly through the gilded streets, not saying anything.
Sherry sat beside me, scrubbed and solemn. We had decided, her mother and I, not to make anything momentous of this first day at school. I was to drop her there and drive on. She knew which classroom was hers. We had all inspected it the week before.
Symbolically, perhaps, the school was on a hill. A flight of steps rose from the street, bisecting the green lawn, arrowing straight to the wide door centered in the red-brick Colonial building. A public school. A good one, so they said.
Already a trickle of small humanity was flowing up the steps. It was easy to spot the first-graders. Most of them were anchored to their mothers' hands. I glanced at Sherry. She was staring at her lap.
"We're a little early," I said. "Want to sit here for a couple of minutes?"
She nodded. I leaned forward and cut the ignition. I had not expected tofeel anything, but now I felt a queer breathlessness, as if I were waiting for something important to happen.
Sherry smoothed her dress carefully over her knees. The part in her hair looked very straight and white. What is she thinking? I asked myself suddenly. What goes on inside that bright, new, untouched mind? Does she know what it means, this first step on the endless ladder of education? Does she have any idea? Of course she doesn't, I told myself impatiently. If she did, she'd probably jump out of the car and run away. How many years of classrooms? Twelve, at least. Sixteen, if she goes to college. More, if she goes on to graduate school or gets specialized training.
I gripped the wheel tighter, thinking of all the unknown individuals who would try to teach this child and in trying would leave some mark, however tiny, on her mind or her heart. Frightening, somehow. Terrifying, almost.
Sherry lifted one foot and examined the scissor scratches on the sole of her new shoe. They will explain the physical world to you, I thought. They may show you how to blueprint the atom. They may give you a map of the spiral nebulae. But who will help you know yourself? Who will teach you to chart your own emotions? Who will offer you a guide to the frail complexities of the human spirit? Nobody, nobody....
Try to learn their facts, I said to Sherry in my mind, but don't worry too much if you can't. You'll forget most of them anyway, sooner or later. I memorized the quadratic formula once, and read all the plays of Molière in the original. What earthly good it did me I still don't know. The things that matter you won't learn from any blackboard. That I can promise you.
A knot of small male animals went by, full of raucous high spirits. There go your real teachers, Sherry, I said to her silently. Take a good look at them, your contemporaries. They will teach you many things that are not in any schoolbooks. Unpleasant things sometimes. How to lie, how to cheat, goodness knows what else....
Maybe you have to learn those things before you can also learn that ultimately they're not worth doing. I don't know. I'm your father, and you think I know everything, but you're wrong. All I really know is that I don't know much-and when you make that discovery about yourself someday, why then the first part of your education will be complete.
But they won't teach you that in school, either. If they did, much of the importance of what they're doing with all their chalk and books and rulers would melt away, and that would never do.
The happy savages went whooping up the steps. Sherry watched them, and I watched Sherry. Five minutes from now, I thought, you won't be just you anymore. You'll also be one of them. It may be the biggest step you'll ever take. I hope it's in the right direction.
I looked at the school high on the hill and the open door with the little figures going into it, and a clammy doubt seized me, a doubt as to the ultimate wisdom of pouring these young lives into such a mold, however good, however well intentioned. Conformity, regimentation, the desire not to be different but to be as much like everyone else as possible-was this really the way to develop independence, originality, leadership?
No such school system existed when our country was born. Yet consider the genius that blazed forth in those days. Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Hamilton, John Marshall, Patrick Henry-all these and many more from a tiny nation of barely three million souls. Now we number 200 million, and schools and colleges cover the land. But where are the leaders, where are the men?
I glanced again at the child beside me. Maybe it doesn't matter, I thought. Maybe the pattern is already set. Maybe the seeds of personality are already planted and nothing can alter the way they will grow. Maybe-I don't know. One more thing I don't know.
Anyway, I said to myself, the time has come. Open that tight parental hand and let her go. It's her life, remember, not yours.
I reached across her and opened the door. She got out slowly and stood with her back to me, looking up at the building on the hill. Now I was supposed to drive nonchalantly away.
"So long, Sherry," I said.
She turned her head, and suddenly that wonderful flood of love and humor came up behind her eyes.
"Don't be scared, Daddy," she said. "I'll be back." And she went climbing up into the blue infinity of the morning.
Arthur Gordon (1912-2002)
During his long and memorable career, Arthur Gordon edited such magazines as Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, and Guideposts. He was the author of a number of books, including Reprisal (1950), Norman Vincent Peale: Minister to Millions (1958), A Touch of Wonder (1983), and Return to Wonder (1996), as well as several hundred short stories.
Excerpted from Focus on the Family Presents Heart to Heart Stories for Teachers Copyright © 2003 by Joe L. Wheeler
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.