A philosophy of teaching.
Growing up in the 70's, I have a clear memory of a certain household object that thoroughly captured my imagination as a child. As many people did in that decade, my parents had a working fireplace. (The kind that burned actual wood.) Beside it, next to a large stone hearth, was the most fascinating curio – a bric-a-brac of sorts. It was a medieval-looking apparatus that looked like a cross between a bagpipe, a foot pump and a ping-pong paddle. In fact, it was an air blower. Or as I would later learn, something called a bellows.
Although I often used it to torment my sister and whoosh air in her face, the ostensible purpose of this tool was to make a fire burn more fiercely by providing it with air. Sometimes, if I was lucky, my dad would let me operate it as he was lighting a fire for us.
In addition to being highly useful for stoking flames, it seems to me that this wonderful contraption also serves as an excellent metaphor for the practice of teaching. The purpose of the vocation, as far as I'm concerned, is to light a fire in the minds and hearts of students. Like a bellows, it is to blow air onto young, curious, burgeoning brains, and consequently, cause them to burn brightly with thermodynamic cerebral energy.
To be a bellows is to be a catalyst for the process of cranial combustion. It is to supply the oxygen that a mind requires to ignite and burst into flames. With any luck, it will be the kind of fire that generates extraordinary amounts of heat and light. Sometimes for the benefit of the self, and sometimes for others.
Personally, I can't think of a more apt analogy for teaching, or frankly, a more important purpose. It's no accident that a synonym for the word teach is illuminate. Since to me, teaching is precisely that.