Most of us in the Midwest found ourselves hiding indoors from winter weather this week. While we curled up beside families and fireplaces, the snow just kept falling. City maintenance trucks rounded our neighborhood repeatedly like cars on a racetrack, but to no avail. With temperatures hovering in the single digits and teens, there was little opportunity for melting, and the snow kept us home for days. Then something magical happened: despite the frigid air temperature, the combination of a beaming sun and copious amounts of salt yielded clear, passable roads.
The contrast of the clear, dry road next to piles of fluffy snow struck me as profound this morning. The roads aren’t clear because of the liberal amounts of salt thrown at them; neither are they dry because of warm temperatures. The combination of our human efforts and the powerful rising sun accomplished this feat—despite the chill in the air.
I can’t help but compare this event to the path of struggling learners in our schools today. For these children (and their families), learning often feels like trying to clear a road from snow on an overcast day with temperatures in the single digits—challenging, if not downright impossible. Sure, we can throw extra effort at the task, sprinkling tutoring sessions around like salt on a driveway, but the difference seems small and the task overwhelming. Are our efforts futile?
It’s easy to feel this way. But, as I often tell my children, feelings aren’t always true. The truth is that our efforts do matter. For most struggling students, repeated daily effort combined with physical and mental maturity will eventually yield substantial growth. You may not see a clear path for your struggling student today, but every little bit of energy you pour into the task of educating him pushes him that much closer to accomplishing his academic goals. When the sun does come out, you will have prepared the path to receive its rays. What a beautiful day that will be!