A Light in the Darkness
October 21, 2020
I attended a concert recently, although the performers didn’t know it. They were collegiate musicians practicing outdoors beneath a tent; I overheard the music and stopped to listen.
It was cold and growing dark. I hadn’t heard live music since March, and the experience was surreal. It reminded me of how different everything has become. Before, you could bustle into a concert hall. You could elbow gently past other patrons on the way to your seat. You could breathe the same air as the musicians — the whole audience could feel, together, the sense of having your breath taken away.
Now, I was listening alone. The music escaped into the night — some of its richness diffused into the dark. That feeling of loss ran deep; these were musicians preparing for a performance that would probably never occur. But against that disappointment and strangeness stood the director. The movements of her hands were crisp and precise. Passion animated her face. She stood, in the cold and in the dark, doing exactly what she had always done: teach.
She stopped her pupils to correct them; then gestured dramatically to illustrate one of her points. A flautist nodded her head, and they took it from the top. As they played, the director’s excitement built; when they finished, she exalted.
“Yes,” she said. “Yes! That was exactly right!” She stood there and beamed, exhilarated, alive — there in the tent, in the cold, in the dark.
Teachers craft those moments of light, even in dark times. When budgets are cut, when communities are torn apart, when the whole world is chaotic and cold, we wake up and cultivate wonder. We spark passion. We teach.
Not always, of course. Class is sometimes a slog. Some lessons flop; sometimes we fail.
But other days, we’re on fire. Energy fills the room and learning lights everyone’s eyes. We exalt in those moments of growth and joy, when together we beat back the bounds of the possible.
A Step Back
I taught on the roof of the school once, to lead the Egg Drop Challenge. Beneath me I heard a hum — the buzz of learning and life. Reader, let’s pause for a moment to appreciate the zeal and the skill of dozens of teachers teaching hundreds of minds — the magnitude of light in a school.
Then zoom up from that school and look down on the town, with its schools scattered like stars in the sky. Thousands of glimmers, thousands of dawns.
Look further; see the land and the light of its schools. Each piece is a part of the main — and what a world it is! Students who sat in classrooms like yours have gone on to create musical masterpieces, to split atoms, to save lives. Humans have climbed Everest and mapped our genome. We’ve painted and sculpted and engineered. Set foot on the moon and even launched a craft beyond the bounds of the solar system and turned its camera back to look at our wild and precious planet spinning slowly, alone, in the cold, in the dark.