I passed a field today where several horses grazed, each with a bird perched on its back. The horses were quite unperturbed by their friends. I immediately suspected a special relationship, not unlike that of teacher and student. The horse is the strong base that supports the bird both from the standpoint of safety (you can see a lot from atop a horse) and from the delicious morsels available in its coat. In a type of symbiotic relationship, the bird helps rid the horse of annoying insects.
Teachers and students enjoy a similar relationship. Teachers are the strong base that supports students. We hold them up so they can see more of the good in the world, we try to protect them from the evils that threaten their stability, and we provide knowledge to nourish their brains. Sometimes we provide food to nourish their bodies.
What of the symbiotic relationship? That holds true as well. Real teachers, the ones who hold their students close to their hearts, come away from the encounter enriched as well. Frankly, a paycheck may put food on the table and a roof over our heads, but the real pay comes in the form of hugs and smiles, of an understanding twinkle of the eye, of a thirst for more knowledge. It may arrive after weeks of explaining fractions or years later when a student returns to reminisce. The truth is real teachers thrive on teaching and learning. And most importantly, we never give up. We never try to shake the bird off our back, because when they are ready, they will fly.