Thursday, January 17, 2008

Students as Investments

When we buy certain items for our household, we realize that some items are investments rather than disposable expenditures. A programmable thermostat is a good example. While it may cost more than a thermostat, home owners often buy them even if they don’t need to replace their furnace thermostat. They do because they realize that, in time, they will actually save money on their gas bill, hopefully more money than the actual cost of the thermostat. When my husband and I purchased our new Honda Civic, we had sticker shock at the cost of a new car, a Honda to boot. Yet, even though it made our finances tight at the moment, we bought the car. Why? Gas prices had just escalated in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and we knew that with the excellent mileage and reliability of the Honda, we would actually save money in the long run. Our gas bill for 2007 has proved us right.

This past weekend, as I visited my family in Arizona, I spent precious time with people who had invested in my life. My grandfather, who drove me 2000 miles to attend graduate school and who flew out two years later so he could walk with me 30 feet down a church aisle to meet my future husband at the alter. My uncle, who spent countless Saturdays hiking in the desert with my family and constantly fell behind the others to help a visually impaired teenager maneuver around rocks and cacti. Two aunts who always treated me like an adult and took time to remember the special days in my life. A former elder in our church, who took me to my first football game, arranged for me to play the piano at the senior citizen’s home where he served as Director of Maintenance and took time out on Sunday mornings to talk to and encourage a lonely, insecure teenager. Two teachers who spent hours outside the classroom, taking personal interest in me and putting up with my wild, hare-brained, idealistic dreams. I owe who I am to these wonderful, giving people.

As I praised God for these special people who have invested in my life, the question came to me, “Who am I investing in?” I was ashamed of my own behavior this weekend. We joined my sister and her daughter for lunch one day and so caught up in visiting with everyone else, I didn’t take the time to visit personally with my niece. I didn’t invest in her like all these wonderful people had invested in me. My youngest daughter turned eighteen this week, and I wistfully look back at the past eighteen years, regretting that I didn’t stop and enjoy the journey more with her.

Inside the Classroom, the time we have with our students is even shorter than the eighteen years we have with our own children. Investing in our students’ lives means we’ll step beyond the curriculum, get our nose outside of the book, and look beyond the bulletin board. Investments always have a cost. You may think that you don’t have the time to do any more than what you already are doing. Yet, even though you may never see a bottom line return like you would on a blue chip statement, your investment in the lives of your students will yield a profitable and lasting return.

Sunday’s coming. Who will you invest in this week?

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