Limitations Are Just Ideas

I’ve taken a wide variety of wilderness medical courses around the northeast. In 2000, I took a winter medicine and rescue course at the AMC center in Pinkham Notch at the base of Mount Washington. It was a two-day course, and on many nights they have slide show presentations for the people staying there. The night I was there, a woman named Michelle put on a presentation about her quest to become a climbing guide. She told the story about how she was drawn to the mountains, and that after she went climbing once she knew she wanted to become a climbing guide. But she struggled with her weight, which made the path to becoming a guide difficult. Eventually, she made up her mind to get in shape and become a guide. People doubted her resolve, but she never did. A year later, with a much fitter body, she continued to pursue her dream and eventually realized it. It was an amazingly inspiring talk, one that has stayed with me for eight years. Near the end of the talk, she read a short note from one of her climbing instructors;

“Michelle’s demonstration of dedication and achievement reminds us all, as individuals, of our great capacity for accomplishment. Her success is a caution to us, as teachers, to be wary of extinguishing the dreams of our students by taking too seriously our imagination of their limitations.”

I don’t know what this man’s name was, but he really got it. He understood the role of the teacher. It should never, ever be limiting. And it’s good to keep in mind that if a teacher has ideas about the limitations of students, he or she should keep them to him or herself, because they’re just that; ideas.

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