Why blaze lonely and unpopular trails that will become highways of tomorrow?

What does leprosy have to do with teaching students?

Paul Brand is famous for finding the cause and treatments for leprosy. This non-fatal disease has long been the most misunderstood and caused people who were not contagious to die horrible deaths of neglect and starvation.

Brand was misunderstood and criticized by his peers for trying to help people who were pariahs in India — they had no money and could not pay. There was no profit and no one cared for these people. In the book, Ten Fingers for God: The Life and Work of Dr. Paul Brand by Dorothy Clarke Wilson, Wilson says:

“there were time during those first years when Paul was sorely tempted to yield to their reasonable arguments.”

During that time, Dr. Brand reached a low because these lepers were so destitute that they would often sabotage their body's efforts at healing so they could continue to be fed, taken care of, and protected from the world. One time he actually saw a patient removing his bandages and scratch his sores to make them worse.

“His high hopes were dashed. The lackluster faces, the dead hands, the inert bodies preempting precious beds…Why rake up such refuse from the dregs of human life when there were hundreds who would respond eagerly to the energies you had to give?”

A young Hindu associate once asked him:

“Dr Brand…do you really think it is worth it?”

No! The word sprang to Paul's lips. He almost spoke it. But something silenced it. Perhaps it was the memory of reawakening life in the eyes of Krishnamurthy. [His first patient.] Or an older memory of three figures turning hopelessly back down a steep mountain path. Or no memory at all, but that strange imperative which compels some men to blaze lonely and unpopular trails which will be the highways of tomorrow.

“Yes,” he replied firmly.” (P 104)

Though I work in a different field, I too have seen reawakening life in the eyes of a student with a diagnosed and accomodated learning disability as he begins to believe in himself again. I have seen the hopeless student give up. I have seen students sabotage their grades in an effort to gain the attention they crave.

But it is the imperative and the belief that what I do is important that keeps me going. What I teach is important.

Somehow, I too feel that in some small way I too am blazing a lonely and unpopular trail which will be the highways of tomorrow.

Edu-bloggers keep on the trail.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Anonymous February 6, 2006 - 1:13 am

Sometimes you read something that makes the hairs on the back of the neck prick up, makes your eyes prick with emotion.

EstieC August 5, 2008 - 5:40 pm

I must admit there have been days that I wanted to scream, “No!” when I was distraught over a student (or students). When I reach one of “moments,” Divine Intervention reminds me of the many successes that I’ve experienced with my students…as we approach yet another year I’m filled with hope, anticipation, and wonder at what the year will bring.

Thank you for this poignant reminder of just “how worth it” our students are.

Brock September 22, 2009 - 12:14 pm

This is a good way to think about teaching and how we can reach the students.

Comments are closed.

The Cool Cat Teacher Blog
Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere