My recent reading included a reference to “light from within” as a means of describing one of the book’s principal characters. The metaphor concerned a young person who was relentless in his search for the illumination derived from knowledge. It was a reference worth pondering, particularly as I spend a considerable amount of time around small people who are stretching their intellectual legs.

We have all known people large and small who fit this description. Remarkably, I can easily remember the names of those who emanated light while my memory often fails me for more recent events and people. Brilliance is quickly identifiable and I define it as a spirit of optimism, enthusiasm and a thoroughly positive approach to life.

It’s especially exciting to witness this type of brilliance from a young person. He or she is usually smiling and displays a sunny disposition, regardless of circumstances, class procedures or weather. Learning is a joy and every new idea is a reason for celebration.

When I recognize how much this child is in the minority of student population, I stop and wonder what we are doing or not doing as educators to foster excitement from learning. Is it too much adherence to curriculum and too little encouragement for creativity? Are our rewards and recognition systems adequate? Do we suffer from rampant parent apathy that discourages children from displaying their new-found learning?

Most likely, it’s all of the above. As classes increase in size, we have less time to devote to individual students. In other words, we don’t have enough minutes to spend with all of our participants, particularly the brightest.

For my part, I am constantly searching for the beacons of light from within. While all of my students need and deserve attention, the ones who are inherently illuminated must have their brilliance reinforced. There is always the possibility that the slower and needier students have the potential for exuberance and I search for that as well.

We must feed the fires of hope and inspiration. These are the players of the future whose talents and radiance must prevail. Shalom.

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