A father of two boys is concerned. One of his children is overly pessimistic while the other is the eternal optimist. He decides to do something about it. While the boys are at school he takes action. He fills the room of the pessimistic son with brand new toys. Then he drives his truck down to a local farm and buys a load of horse manure. He fills the optimistic son's room with the manure. When the Dad comes home later he is surprised by what he discovers. The pessimistic son is on his bed crying. "Why are you crying?" He asks the boy. "I've got all these new toys and I'm afraid I might break them," the child answers. Next, the father strolls down to the optimistic boy's room and is met with loud whooping and hollering. He walks into the room and sees the kid tossing horse manure all over the place! "What are you doing, son?" The child answers: "I just know that there's a pony in here somewhere!"
Here is one of the things I love and admire about school teachers: We look for a pony. We are faced each school year with all kinds of children. I don't need to go into any details about some of the homes a portion of these kids come from. It's sad. We deal with students who have severe learning disabilities, angry dispositions, and some who act out daily because of their frustrations and lack of self-confidence. Teachers are always faced with a choice. We can ignore the disrespect and poor behavior or we can address it by applying needed discipline to the offending child. But from my 33 years of experience I can tell you what I have witnessed in my colleagues. Teachers look for the pony. There may be a stench of horse manure all around the kid. (Of course, I'm speaking figuratively). The child may have all sorts of academic or behavioral deficiencies, but most teachers make it a point to pick up the horse manure surrounding their young lives and toss it aside because we know there's a pony in there somewhere! Okay, so maybe we're not exactly trained psychologists who are capable of diagnosing these very real issues. I will admit that. But that doesn't mean that we still don't look!
I like to refer to teachers as hope salesmen. We're not all glamorous like Hollywood, or sports stars, or hip-hop performers. No, sometimes the hope and dreams we promote appear kind of boring and out of touch. Now I'm not about to criticize Hollywood, sports stars or musicians, (is hip-hop really considered music?), but allow me to at least make this claim. Teachers promote reality! These people who have experienced incredible success as a result of their talents, be it in acting, music or athletics deserve their rewards. They work hard and I applaud them for their effort. But let's face it: Not everyone is born with the talents and skills these few possess. When I was young I hoped to be a professional athlete. Lots of kids did. But I don't have a 99 mph fastball and I only grew to be 5ft. 7 inches tall. (Can I use the word, tall, to describe my lack of height?). My next unrealistic dream was to be a rock n' roller. I started a band called the Unknowns and I was the lead singer. Unfortunately, the Unknowns remained that way. We were unknown. I wanted to be the next Mickey Mantle or Johnny Unitas but when I got older I happily settled on being the next Joe Blanda. Joe Blanda? He was my seventh grade English teacher and he saw a pony in me!
All these kids we teach have a pony just waiting for someone like us to unleash within them. All of you veterans like me know what I am talking about. The accolades and salutes will come. Former students will come up to us at the grocery store and say thank you for all you did for me. They will tell us how much they appreciated the discipline and the fact that we teachers cared about how they turned out in life. Can we be real? It's never been about the money! What money? This is our calling and we are proud to be called to help the young people of America.
Parents, administrators and public opinion may not always be in our favor yet we teachers persevere. When we are criticized, we will look for the pony. When we are insulted, have our integrity questioned and slandered by those who do not understand what it is we do, we will still continue to look for the pony in every child. Seriously, do we really have a choice? Looking for the pony is who we are! I believe that the majority of we teachers can't help but look for the pony! Can I be real again? We look but sometimes we don't always find the pony. But we always try!