The Precious Present
Katherine was a young girl in high school. She was getting ready to enter her freshman year when she began exploring the colleges and universities to which she wanted to submit applications. She spent the fall months creating a “To Do” list that would take her into her senior year. The list included items like getting an ‘A’ on every math test and making sure she took classes that would elevate her GPA. She would use any free time during the school day to reference her list to make sure she was staying on schedule. One day her Social Studies teacher, Mr. Finn, asked her what she was doing. She showed him her iPad and began to explain Katherine’s “To Do” list. As Katherine read off each item, line by line, Mr. Finn listened intently. When Katherine finished reading her list, Mr. Finn made a statement that seemed to perplex Katherine. He told her that all those were great ideas and he knew the easiest way for her to ensure everything on her list gets checked off. Katherine was excited by what Mr. Finn had told her and she could not hold in the excitement of wanting to know how. How can she make sure everything n her list gets checked off? There is no possible way, Katherine thought. Nothing can be that easy. Mr. Finn quietly said to her, “Yes it is. All you need to do is find the precious present. If you can find the precious present then everything else will be taken care and all the items on your list will be checked off in no time”. Katherine focused in on Mr. Finn and without hesitation asked “What is the precious present and where can I buy it?” Mr. Finn quietly told Katherine, “Katherine, it is not something you have to buy, but if you search hard enough you will find it”. Katherine spent the next four years searching high and low for the precious present all while crossing off items on her checklist along the way. Her four years of high school concluded and she was preparing for the next phase of her life, college. She was accepted to Middleberry College and could not wait to get started. But she never forgot about the precious present. She thought that maybe if she could find it, it would help her achieve all the items on her new list.
One autumn afternoon, in the outdoor commons area, students were discussing an article they were reading in class on diversity. They were talking about how diversity can be conceptualized in various ways. Katherine stopped to join the discussion and was prepared to show off all she had been taught in school. As Katherine began to listen to the dialogue between the students, she noticed all the students were using their personal experiences to support their perspective on diversity. It was in that moment that Katherine, for the first time, chose to refrain from contributing to the group discussion. Later that evening Katherine returned to her dorm where she lay down and began to cry. For the first time in her life she questioned her intelligence. She was embarrassed at the fact that she didn’t have any personal experiences with diverse relationships or individuals. All of her information was academia driven and not experiential. It was at that moment that she realized that she had the precious present the whole time but because she was focused on the ‘what’s ahead’, rather than what is happening now, she never got to appreciate the present.
This story symbolizes where we currently are as a school. We are all aware that there are many discussions taking place about the future of our schools and the future of our students. Yes, these discussions and decisions will impact all students in Rochester, but we must not neglect the precious present sitting before us. As educators it is our duty to take the opportunity to utilize every minute and every day to provide an enriched learning experience that will equip our students with the critical skills needed to be successful citizens and leaders in life. With that said, my role is to create a culture that supports teachers and students in their educational journey. We must stay focused on the students and school we currently have and develop our skills so we can meet the needs of our students today.
Yes, it is important to stay abreast of what will be happening around us, but we cannot allow our focus to shift from the present to the future. Because if we do, our students miss out on a learning experience that is more than just academia knowledge. They miss out on discovery, an experience that leads to lifelong learning.
Ms. Stamm, Principal