The Builder

Rachel Nelli, a gifted teacher in Hilliard City Schools, kindly gave us permission to publish this. Her writings can be found at "Something Creative I Haven't Thought Of Yet"

Lately I've seen a lot of my colleagues looking downcast, and more demoralized than ever. I am, too. It's been hard to articulate why, though, without people's eyes glazing over. It just doesn't connect to something they really know.

So, if you're a teacher, and you'd like to explain it a little better, share this.

And if you're not a teacher, but you'd like to understand a little better--whether you love the teacher or have a gripe with her, or both, read this:

The Builder

Once upon a time there was a builder. He built houses, and he was good at it. He could look at plans and know, from experience, which plans would work well, which needed tweaking, and which ones should be sent back for revisions. He knew his materials. He understood wood and cement, nails and steel. Knew how to check for flaws, how to shape and refine the materials he used to make them exactly fit what he needed for each home. He loved his work, loved his team, loved seeing his fine homes, standing tall and beautiful, and knowing he’d done something of worth.

Then one day, the elected head of the local building council appeared, and handed him a set of plans. They were rather different than other plans, but workable. They called for things to be done in a different order than the builder thought was wise, but the client was insistent that these were the finest and best plans, designed from new understandings of the principles of building.

“Very well,” said the builder. “I will study these, and work with them. When should I expect my supplies to arrive?”

“Supplies?” asked the surprised councilman, “Why, you have all the supplies you need! They are everywhere!”

Raising an eyebrow, the builder looked about at the empty landscape and asked again, “Where? What would you like me to use? These plans call for all new kinds of materials, and I do have lots of bit and pieces in my truck, but the house they would build certainly wouldn’t match these plans.”

Exasperated, the official gestured widely to the environs. “Why, there are supplies everywhere! There’s a forest right there! It has all the wood you could need! There is clay beneath our feet that can make fine bricks! There is a river of water just over that rise with a slate bed! Good grief, man, you have all you could ask for! All you have to do is look.”

The builder raised his other eyebrow and replied, “Well, I suppose I could use them, but who is to ensure the quality -- I know nothing of the kind of wood or shale or clay that is out there. And creating these materials will take a great deal of time. I am very good at evaluating and using materials provided, but creating them whole is another matter entirely. What extra staff and budget is there for this, for it will far exceed the costs of just building, which is the job for which I originally bid.”

Now infuriated, the councilman exploded, “What are you, lazy? You tell me you’re an expert builder, yet you can’t make your own materials? Who would be better qualified? What, you want someone else to make things for you? Time? Why should I give you extra time? You have plenty of time since you only 'work' 7 hours out of the day, and often spend weeks off at a time between jobs.

Staff? We hired YOU, the ‘expert’, to build this home, and now you’re saying you want extra help to do what anyone could do easily in a mere moment? I suppose you could use volunteers, but you’ll have to find them on your own time. I can’t even understand why you didn’t come prepared with all your materials in the first place. Isn’t that what we pay you for? To be prepared?”

The official stomped away, muttering “Skilled builder. HA. Lazy complainer is what he is.” Then he turned and yelled, “If you DON’T do the job, NOW, to MY SPECIFICATIONS, I’ll let everyone know what a terrible job you do, how you are incompetent at even the most basic levels and you will never work in this field again! Send me updates twice a day on your progress, with exact data and examples to show what you’ve done.”

“But….” began the builder, but the client was gone. Shoulders drooping and head bent, the builder picked up his wheelbarrow and tools and trudged toward the rise, to begin work. It would be a very, very long day.