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I’ve already written about the starfish story and how important it is to me. I’m faced with something of a dilemma as an educator and I want to write about it in terms of that story.

I identify with the young girl in the story, who visits the beach, picks up starfish, and throws them into the ocean. I feel that this act, of saving starfish one by one, is a metaphor for my work as an educator. Here’s the question.

Do I enjoy the act of throwing starfish back into the ocean, or do I enjoy the fact that starfish are thrown back in? If I knew that by never visiting the beach and never throwing in a starfish myself, that I could actually save ten, or a hundred, or a thousand times more starfish, would I do it? Or does my pleasure come from the actual act of lifting the starfish from the sand and throwing it into the waves with my own hands and arms?

I think that I do not need to be the thrower. If I can inspire others to become throwers, I believe that I can be just as happy. That’s not to say that I won’t do the occasional throwing myself; I think I still will. But if through my actions I can cause more starfish to be returned to the sea, I think I can be happy.

But what if I fail? I know I can reach down, throw a starfish, and have it hit the water. I know I can do that. What if I can’t inspire this action in others?

The starfish analogy is not really perfect for what I do. The interesting thing about what I do is that the starfish themselves can become star throwers. Through the act of being lifted from the sand and tossed back into the ocean, the starfish are given the chance to grow into beings that can walk along the beach, pick up starfish, and throw them back in.

Perhaps a better analogy is a chain reaction. By inspiring two star throwers, they each have the power to inspire two more, who can each in turn inspire two more. Now I start to see the power of inspiration. I teach others so that they may become teachers.

I just hope it works.

My first book, called The Turtle and the Universe, was published by Prometheus Books in July 2008. You can read about it by clicking on the link above.
My second book, Atoms and Eve, is available as an e-book at Barnes and Noble. Click the link above. You can download the free nook e-reader by clicking the link below.
September 2008
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A blog by Stephen Whitt

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