Dropping Pebbles in the Pond

I don’t know that this quote has been accurately attributed to Mother Theresa, but some time ago I came across a meme that did. The quote was:

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.

Think about that concept. 

It’s unlikely that an individual or individual actions are going to create a world-changing difference. There are standouts in history where big things happen due to the ideas and actions of individuals, but on a day-to-day basis, faced with the challenges put in front of humanity in today’s world, the thought that one person alone can change the world for the better is a bit of a reach.

And yet there’s a reason we know who Mother Theresa is.

Whether it was her that said it or not.

I DO like the idea of ripples as a way to affect change.

Casting a stone though…Sure there are ripples. But it skips away and across, leaving that trail of expanding rings. Neat enough, but as a teacher, I’ll use a stone when I’m looking to smash a window or get attention. 

Like a teacher should, you know.

But my approach when I’m educating, which when you think about it is changing the world for learners’ through their perceptions of the world and their approaches to it, and this is whether I’m speaking of my own children or about students in my classroom, is more about dropping pebbles than casting stones. 

More ripples. More intersections. More influence. More opportunities.

Many pebbles when I can, and right where I am. I want to be in the ripples. I want to see them intersect and interact, I want to watch what happens when students see them. I want to collect the data on what happens when I know that they do and are reacting to that.

Then I want to use what I see to decide where more pebbles should be dropped.

I’m the teacher. I have been doing this for over twenty years and in my time before and in my time now my world has rippled across hundreds of years of collective experience in education and intersected and been influenced by every sort of little pebble from state legislative leaders of education, down through commissioners of education and state department regents, down through superintendents…down to food service workers, custodians, health office staff, parent volunteers, board members…

It has never really been education or schools that needed reforming, but a game is being forced into play as if it was and is. The world is placing its burdens on schools and educators are being expected to pretend that it’s the school’s responsibility to fix the world. This is where Mother Theresa nails it, I think. And she did it in this interview almost twenty years ago, around when I started teaching.

 “There is a poverty in your country that is just as severe as our poorest of the poor… In the West there is a loneliness, which I call the leprosy of the West. In many ways, it is worse than our poor in Calcutta.”

Our “American Exceptionalism” culture drives us into separation and isolation.

We are expected to accept “the economy” as the measure of our success as a people, and in schools that economy has become standardized testing data. The norming of results to take that data and further dehumanize a human endeavor has turned our eyes further from the children and more to the screens, machines and spreadsheets that only facilitate further dehumanization of the human endeavor to educate.

The way real educators should.

Those are some pebbles from my one hand.

In the other, I’m still holding a stone.

If the world is to be changed, I think that’s how to get it started. With the right pebbles dropped in the right places at the right time.

I had a bit of a break from my last podcast episode, and I’m still trying to nail down the platform and approach. The next one will get into examples of how I have actually made that pebble and ripples thing work. A little twisted, a lot of fun, and very effective!


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