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What You See is Less than What You Get


I have lived in Durham for 16 years and love it. It is a small yet vibrant city with great arts and amazing restaurants. With two world class universities, the intellectual capital is high. Both universities have hospital systems, so the standard of medical care is incredibly strong. Further, the climate is great--four seasons with a mercifully short winter.


Last summer, my wife and I visited some National Parks and discovered a passion for hiking. Being surrounded by nature, enjoying the quiet from mechanical noises eased our tensions. The exercise felt good and was good for us. (We hope to avoid utilizing the excellent medical care available in Durham for a good long while.) As the trip came to an end, we vowed to keep on hiking.


When we got back to Durham we were pessimistic about finding good hiking trails. With low expectations, we searched for local trails.


However, we were amazed to find that Durham had hundreds--literally hundreds--of nature trails suitable for novice hikers. In retrospect, that discovery should not have been surprising. Much of Duke Forest, all 7,000 acres of it, and the Eno River State Park, with 4,200 acres, are in Durham. It stands to reason that these wilderness areas would have hiking trails.


However, before developing an interest in hiking, we did not look for Durham’s nature trails. Not looking for the trails, we did not find them. Not finding them, we assumed they were not there.


I think there is a lesson here for how we interrelate with our students. We often judge students by what we see and we see what we are looking for. Schools are infamous for rewarding strong verbal and mathematical skills. As a result, we often overlook other skills and positive attributes. The student who struggles in math may be a great friend and incredibly gifted in art. We need to recognize and honor those gifts.


And the same goes for adults with whom we interact. They may have many strengths that are not immediately evident.


As we interact with each other, let’s look for those hidden nature trails. They no doubt exist if we are open to finding them.

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