Making Room for the Important Things

I read a brief story within a book I was reading yesterday that I have heard before and loved, but had a brief moment afterward where the thought passed through my mind, “I wonder how this applies in education?  What are your big rocks?”

It originally comes from First Things First by Stephen Covey who tells the story of a man teaching a class.  To make a point, he pulled a large wide mouthed jar from under the podium he was lecturing from.  He picked up some fist-sized rocks and put them in the jar.  Then he looked out at the class and asked, “Is the jar full?”

Some of the students, not knowing where he was going, blurted out “Yes.”  Then he said, “Really?”  He pulled out a bucket of small pea-sized gravel and began to pour it in the jar.  The class watched as the gravel went down in between the rocks filling the spaces until it reached the top.

“Now is the jar full?”

The class was a bit hesitant to answer.  “Probably not,” one of them answered.  The man then poured a bucket of sand down among the gravel and rocks.  He shook the jar gently to let it settle and then added some more until the sand reached the top.  “Is the jar full?”

“No!” some of the class shouted.  “Good!” said the man as he reached for a pitcher of water and slowly poured the water into the jar.  It filtered down until it was running out of the jar at the top.  Then he turned to the class and asked, ” What is the point of this illustration?”

Somebody in the back raised his hand and said, “No matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!”

“No,” the teacher replied.  “That’s not the point.  The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”

Such a great illustration to remember in life and one that always makes me think about what my big rocks are and readjust so I am putting them in first.  But one I have never really taken into the realm of education and my role as a teacher.  Something to think about…

What are my big rocks?  Am I putting them in first?

jar of rocks

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