"Why do we have to learn all of this dumb stuff?" Of all the complaints and questions I have heard from my students during my years in the classroom,this was the one most frequently uttered.I would answer it by recounting the following legend.
One night a group of nomads were going to sleep when suddenly they were surrounded by a great light.They knew they were in the presence of God.A voice spoke finally,"Gather as many pebbles as you can.Put them in your saddle bags.Travel a day's journey and tomorrow night will find you glad and it will find you sad."
The nomads were disappointed and angry-the task made no sense to them at all.However,the memory of the brilliance of their visitor caused each one to pick up a few pebbles.
They traveled a day's journey.At night they searched their saddle bags and discovered every pebble had become a diamond.They were glad they had diamonds.They were sad they not gathered more.
It was an experience I had with a student,Alan.
When Alan was in the eighth grade,his master's in "trouble".He had studied how to be a bully and was getting his master's in "thievery".
Every day I had my students memorize a quotation from a great thinker.No one complained about this daily routine more than Alan- right up to the day he was expelled and I lost touch with him.Then one day,he called.He told me that after being sent to juvenile hall,he had because so disgusted with himself that he had cue his wrists.
He said,"As I lay there with my life running out of my body,I suddenly remembered that dumb quote you mad me write 20 times one day.'There is no failure except in no longer trying.'Then it suddenly made sense to me.As long as I was alive,I wasn't a failure,but if I allowed myself to die,I called for help and started a new life."
When he had heard the quotation,it was a pebble.When he needed guidance in a moment of crisis,it became a diamond.So,gather all the pebbles you can,and you can count on a future filled with diamonds.