Back in the day, another life, a different career, I was a university professor preparing undergraduate and graduate students for their teaching careers. I taught them how to teach reading, writing, listening, and speaking to pre-K through eighth grade students.
I began each class with an introduction to me that included the quotes I used to guide my life and decisions I made, specifically as it related to education and teaching. I challenged them to write in their class content journals the words they chose and to explain why and how those words influenced them as teachers/future teachers.
I was disappointed, most of the time, at the lack of reflection their choices showed. Most of them had clearly never considered guiding words beyond their sacred texts. Not to diss sacred texts, but there are other sources as well. But if the choice were words from their holy books, I expected more than “These words are true.” I would push back with, “Why these words in particular? What truth do they speak to you? How does that truth play out in your teaching choices and decisions? Personalize this so it is not so generic.”
Orally, I modeled what I expected from them. I spoke my words (as they were displayed) and told how my quotes guided me. How I was not perfect at living up to my set of guiding words, but that having a moral compass reflected in my guiding words meant that more often than not I acted in concert with them.
Here are the quotes, that even now, years away from my former profession, I resonate to:
I am only one.
Still, I am one.
I cannot do everything.
Still, I can do something.
Because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.
Edward Everett Hale
Treat every child as if he already is the person he is capable of becoming.
Even if I knew certainly the world would end tomorrow, I would plant an apple tree today.
Attributed to Martin Luther
What words guide you in navigating the rapids, shoals, and still waters of life?