There are no accidents. No one to blame. Each of us has a path unknown to us, with options and crossroads. And always a destination. Like those ever more common graphs of word association, every road has a logical association to that place from whence we started.
As a child I was impressed by a single piece of furniture – a desk, full of power and secrets, with many drawers and hiding places. My imagination played games based on it. Usually, I was a teacher. And so, upon graduating university, I was a teacher.
I never had such a desk in the classroom. Or in my office. I always had students. Each was unique, each had preconceptions and distractions. It took a lot of imagination to understand and communicate to so many different minds. Like my childhood desk, I had to store something is so many secret drawers. And remember how to retrieve it later. But for all of my own work, it was the student who earned the grade.
Just as I had shifted from my imaginary game to teaching, I had shifted also from storing secrets in drawers to sharing them with young minds. No longer was the power in assigning grades, it was in discovering how each mind was locked or unlocked. The power was in the mystery itself.
It was not long before I discovered that there were classrooms and students everywhere. Each on a path like me, but heading in hundreds of new directions. Each was periodically at an intersection puzzling over uncertain destinations.
What is it that makes these intersections in our lives so clear? Why are we so aware of that moment? Of the limited number of choices? Of the destinies before us?
I found in teaching that the secret to learning was listening. Receiving. Welcoming. Questioning. Each student, each individual is on a different path and in a different place. It was never enough to give. To meet them I had to find them. Thus, I became a listener. I had the questions and not the answers. And in return, I found that power indeed lay in the mysteries. Not in my control, but in what others volunteered to me.
Hidden inside each drawer of my childhood desk were many different possibilities. There were soldiers of the chessboard, drawing curves and measuring devices, old letters with interesting handwriting and forgotten stamps, recipes for meals I don’t ever remember eating.
Now I find those drawers in my imagination full of the secrets, the mysteries, of hundreds of students. No longer do I collect the keys of power. I am honored to secure the confidences, the map coordinates, the crossroads of other lives. I still don’t understand why these moments are so clear to us. But at each moment, every student still asks me to listen, welcome, and accept.