The Student and the Teacher 2: a high degree of the attainable

The student strode down the street with a springy step. The heavy back-pack seemed light and the sunshine was exquisite.

“My teacher is waiting for me!” the student thought merrily, arriving in front of the school and pushing on the door. It clanged. Locked. Temporarily thwarted, the student picked out a sunny spot to wait for the teacher to show up.

The student recognized the teacher from the distance by only his stride- the way his figure swayed easily from side to side when he stepped- and his pointy hat.

“Good morning!” the student greeted the teacher with a wide grin.
“Good morning!” the teacher returned both, giving the student’s hand a quick squeeze, and unlocking the door.

Bright and early. They got situated and the teacher brought out a list of vocabulary words for the student to learn.

“Here, memorize these and we’ll have a quiz in five minutes.”
“What?!” exclaimed the student, looking at the list in dismay. “Teacher, I want to do as you say, but the list is so long. I could never memorize these fifty words in five minutes.”

The teacher smiled a knowing smile, but as to what he seemed to ‘know’ baffled his pupil. “I know, I know. Just try.” He patted his student on the shoulder and then used that hand to guide the student to a seat.

A puzzled look replaced the initial shocked one. “I know!” the teacher said again.
“Um, well teacher, you know that I get headaches if I read small words for so long. In the past, we’ve dealt with this problem, so we’ve switched to small short lists so I can remember and not get headaches.”

The teacher’s smile hadn’t wavered for a second. “I know, I know. “But you should try. You have to build your memory. You have to build your power. Your memory is weak.”
“But I get. HEADACHES. I thought you knew…Physically, I can’t do it…” The student glanced up, seeing the teacher’s smile vanishing, and then felt kind of pathetic for saying, ‘can’t.’
“Okay I’ll try.”
“Good. Do it,” the teacher commanded.

The student bent over the paper and focused hard on the first set of words. Repeating them over and over, writing them a few times, but hurrying on to the next one. The student poured all possible mental energy into it, and before long, started getting a headache.

The student communicated this to the teacher, chagrined.

“You know, you don’t have to focus so hard sometimes,” the teacher said, standing over the student’s shoulder. “You should adjust your study habits. Relax, maybe skim.”

The student shifted back to the words, managing to skim the remainder of the list, before time was up.
“Okay, quiz time,” the teacher said, whisking away the list and replacing it with a blank white sheet.
The student struggled through it, while not doing so well, didn’t fail either. Sitting back and l reflecting, the student said, “I could almost recall a few of the ones I skimmed, but wasn’t sure. My head is killing me. I still think a shorter list would be more beneficial to me. I’ve tried taking medicine, going to the doctor, smaller lists, etc, and it’s something I just can’t help…”

“You complain too much! Too many excuses!” the teacher laughed, swatting the student over the head.
The student got angry. What was wrong with the teacher? For years the teacher could see that the student got headaches, so they made short lists to avoid it.

Lately, the student hadn’t been remembering so many words. Then a thought occurred to the student. “I might not be able to do everything. But, if I try to do it all, I’ll reach a higher point than if I hadn’t tried at all. I need to make the most effort to do the most in any situation. If I push myself to do something that seems impossible, I’ll still be able to achieve a small portion of that goal. If I’d refused the list of 50 questions, I never would have remembered ten.”

The student looked up at the teacher, a hint of a smile on the lips. It wasn’t only ‘memory’ the teacher was trying to build. It was resolution. “I think I understand,” the student said out-loud quietly. “You wanted to make me realize that I have to try to do the impossible, or else I can never achieve the a high degree of the attainable.”

The teacher merely packed up his bags. “You’re smart,” he said. “You understand what I try to say.”
“But teacher…”
“I still have a headache.”
This earned a sharp glance.
“And I make too many excuses, don’t I? Okay, I got it! I understand!”
“You understand?”
The teacher finished packing with a laugh. “Finally!”…