Painting with Integrity

Painting of a farmer with a plow horseOn my office wall is a picture that as I look at it, I am relaxed and reflective. It reminds me of my home, my boyhood and my granddad. The artist has created a farm scene. The farmer plows his field with his dog by his side. The entire painting is serene and calming. However one day someone pointed out a difference in one corner. There was a smudge of some sort. As I walked closer and began to focus on the smudge, I noticed that there were several imperfect brush strokes. I focused closely and saw the “errors” the artist had made. Interestingly, I could no longer see the farmer tilling the furrows, the wagging tail of the dog or the clear blue sky. I was distracted from seeing the good in the bigger picture in favor of identifying a few flaws.

For a while all of the great memories of Granddaddy Picture of the authors grandfather milking a cowHenshaw begin to get swallowed up in my focus on the imperfections of the painting which I never really noticed until they were pointed out. I realized the importance of stepping back to focus on the entire painting so I could continue finding peace and comfort in the memories of my Granddaddy.

As an educator I know there are times when I focused on a corner rather than the whole picture. There are moments when I let personality quirks direct my focus away from the whole person. I let some individuals get under my skin and think of them as “disruptive,” or “uncooperative,” or “always unprepared.”

Focusing on a fault or weakness of another while glossing over the greater good distorts the true picture of an individual. In many ways we are creatures of our own thinking and words. Our action’s toward others is much like the painter’s stroke on a canvass. Therefore it’s important that we “Paint with Integrity” by focusing on the whole and not just the moment. Each individual is more than what is seen in the moment or an hour or a day or even a year. Sometimes we only have a brief moment to paint our stroke on the canvass; therefore it’s our challenge to be certain that the strokes we make blend with the whole.

A lesson I continue to learn is to focus on the whole not just the moment. As we step back and look at the bigger picture: our view is broadened, our understanding is deepened and our judgment more clear. I still find serenity in the painting on the wall in my office, I only needed to step back and refocus on the whole picture.

Reflection Questions

Why is it important to step back and refocus on the whole picture?

What has been your experience when you choose not to step back and look at the whole picture?

How can the concept of “Painting with Integrity” help to promote a caring and effective connection between teacher and student?

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