The teacher is like the archer on the front line of the fight against societal woes. The teacher is like the artisan that builds his own arrows to be sharp, sturdy and well guided on their flight toward the mark.
King Solomon wrote in the 127th Psalm that children are like arrows and that a happy man has a quiver full of them. He also wrote that they would face our enemies at the gate. This simile infers that adults recognize and acknowledge the difficulties of life and strive to prepare our children to meet them with wisdom and cunning, knowing that each generation has the capacity to make the world a better place and that they will continue a sort of engineered legacy for us all.
Our role in education is summarized in the Latin phrase: In loco parentis, which means ‘in place of the parent’. With teachers being such a large part of the daily lives of America’s youth, don’t we have a quiver full of arrows? Shouldn’t we be happy about the opportunities we have to shape the future? Let us explore the teacher as the Artisan who builds his own arrows and the Archer who determines their trajectories… their destinies.
In old western movies, when the cowboys or scouts would come across abandoned arrows, one of them would always name a tribe. They would look at the subtle design differences of the arrow to make this distinction. We know there are facts to support those scenes because there are displays of arrowheads and other artifacts in museums that archaeologists identify as belonging to certain tribes and time periods because of their distinct characteristics.
The same is true for schools and, especially, teachers. It is that certain expression of knowledge or use of phrase that instills a certain purpose in our students. That purpose may be for or against our intentions. Just as the certain differences is design caused arrows to have certain flight characteristics and point-of-impact strength, our students leave us with certain strengths and sometimes more weaknesses. These weaknesses come from the lack of craftsmanship and attention to detail.
The industrialized world we live in has evolved our minds to believe that all we have to do is create one die to make multiple copies of an ideal original. This works with the modern arrow and arrowhead as it is designed to penetrate game and targets. But, if we were to actually fight an intelligent enemy, the one weakness of such a design would be easily discovered and exploited and soon would have no effect. It is craftsmanship and unique design that makes a weapon hard to strategize against because no two projectiles will be the same; therefore, all of our students should be shaped according to their own strengths and weaknesses. It is in this way that teachers are Artisans who can see the sharp arrowhead that lies within the raw material and make precise cuts to ‘sharpen’ it with knowledge and ‘hone’ it with practice in preparation to make its mark on society.
The Arrow’s Shaft
The shaft of an arrow adds strength and durability to support the arrowhead. In antiquity these shafts were built from the straightest limbs and pieces of some parent plant that had sturdy and strong fiber characteristics.
The internal strength and durability of our future generations depends upon the character of those adults whose ‘roots’ fortify those branches and whose moral fiber strengthen the prodigy. Roots that feed too much of what the branches want will make them weak. Roots that deprive the branches of what they need will make them weak. The adults that guide the lives of youth are to be examples of strength and durability so that the armor of the enemy does not shatter the arrow. Our students must be able to face adversity with the internal fortitude that is exemplified by the adults they have observed. This adds weight and will to a purpose.
The Arrow’s Fletching
At the base of every arrow is its fletching. A fletch is a feather that works in accord with two or three others to cause the arrow to spin. This spinning keeps it on its course so that it is not influenced by prevailing winds. So, fletching is the unified effort to keep an arrow well guided.
Each student has more than one teacher who influences his or her life. It is important that each teacher act as a fletch that works in conjunction with other teachers to keep the arrow on its straight path. And, that path is determined by both the archer and the arrow. If the arrow is balanced it will fly true. The balance occurs when the teacher attends to the students best interest with true fidelity. Our students need to be guided, not only to a career, but to a lifelong purpose. A purpose that surpasses a monetary goal. A purpose to serve and to become craftsmen themselves.
Each generation exponentially exposes the attitude of the previous. If our attitude is selfless and geared toward the fortitude of our children, then our enemy will be vanquished. So, who is our enemy?
Our enemy is ignorance and despair. Each year we release a volley of our craft work toward that mark but there are too few that are finding the target and the enemy is gaining strength. So, make your arrows sharper, pull further back the string, and aim higher at release because it is the time and condition of our release that determines if our arrows hit their mark.
The last stanza of the poem On Children, by Kahlil Gibran:
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.