Sometimes life drops a great big metaphor in your lap that makes the rest of your life, or maybe just the edges of it, make more sense. Last night the sink in our bathroom stopped draining. I was frustrated because it was already past my bedtime, and I had already spent a good deal of time fussing with the sink earlier in the week. I had cleaned the faucet, and it was as shiny as a twenty-year-old fixture could be, and I had taken apart the plug to eliminate the black and grey spongy mass that had collected at the top of the drain.
Now it still looked fine, but it wasn't draining at all. I tried some of my favorite home remedies. My wife patiently stood by and even went outside to get the tools that I insisted that I needed to make the water flow. I plunged and poked and took the trap off and ran a snake back into the wall, and all I succeeded in doing was making a pool of black water in the sink that would not go down the drain. It was approaching midnight, and my wife gently urged me to leave the standing water and go to bed.
I didn't sleep well, partly because of the drain, and partly because of the looming day ahead of me. When I finally dragged myself into the bathroom as dawn approached, I found that the sink was dry. There was a crust of sediment clinging to it, but it was dry. I needed to give it time.
This is why teaching is like that sink: All the things I did helped get the drain moving, but the most important element was time. I could not make the water go down any quicker than it would. I also know that the sink is not "fixed", rather it is getting clear and will require further attention and more regular maintenance. I cannot make it work. I can facilitate it, but I cannot make it. As a matter of fact, the effort I put in may have made it harder for the sink to drain.
When everything is wiped down, it still looks pretty, but the insides require more attention.
All of this occured to me as I was taking a shower this morning, where the water flowed freely. But I know that I can't ignore it, since that's a metaphor that's just waiting to happen.