Can’t See the Forest for the Trees by Lillian Duncan

I spent 28.43 years in a large urban school district. During that time I worked with every age of student from 3-21, students with every disability (deaf, hard-of-hearing, autistic, deaf-blind, emotionally disturbed children, cognitive delays) as well as students with no disability other than a simple articulation problem.

I was and still am a speech pathologist. In the early years, I was assigned to as many as five schools with a caseload of over 125 children at any given time. As a comparison, most SLPs have a caseload of around 60-75 these days.

To say it was tough would be an understatement especially when you consider my own background! I graduated from a rural high school with a total of about 550 students whose parents were mostly farmers and factory workers. Along with that, I’m well under five feet tall!

To say it was a culture shock would be an understatement!

How I ended up there is too long of a story, but I had no intention of staying in the district for long. At first, I cried every Friday after school because I was so happy I wouldn’t have to go back to work for two days! But somewhere along the way things changed and I never did look for a different job (except for one time in the very first year).

I loved what I was doing even though it was difficult so I stayed and I stayed. I saw many teachers who “quit” but stayed anyway. I vowed that I wouldn’t be one of those teachers. I would give my best to my students or I wouldn’t stay.

At one point, I seriously considered quitting. Teaching was so overwhelming in my district. No money, no supplies, no respect, no….no… get the idea. My brother gave me some of the best advice I ever had as a teacher and so I will share it with you.

We’ve all heard the saying: you can’t see the forest for the trees. Of course, that means we’ve become focused on the small picture that we can’t see the big picture.

My brother explained to me, as a teacher I need to stop looking at the forest and look at the trees. I might not have any control over that forest, but I could make a difference with those individual trees.

And so I stayed working in that large urban district. Some years were easier than others. Some students made me smile more than others. Some days were better than others.

But at the end of my 28.43 years, I can say I stayed and I didn’t quit on my students. At least not for more than a few hours at a time. Come on, we’re all human and we can get tired and frustrated. That’s part of being a teacher, too! That’s why we love snow days!!

Teaching anywhere is difficult. Teaching in an urban district is almost impossible. But the students in those districts need teachers who will see them as individual trees and not just part of the forest.

You won’t and you can’t save every tree, but if you do your part you can help save some of the trees.


Our guest blogger today is Lillian Duncan. She lives in Ohio with her husband, four parrots, one Jack Russell, and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. She’s been a Speech-Language Pathologist for over thirty years. She writes stories of faith mingled with murder & mayhem. She writes the type of books she loves to read–suspense with a touch of romance.

Whether as an educator, a writer, or a speech pathologist, she believes in the power of words to transform lives, especially God’s Word.

To learn more about Lillian and her books, visit: She also has a devotional blog at: Her most recent release is THE CHRISTMAS STALKING: Being a celebrity isn’t all glitz & glamour, someone wants her dead. Check it out at:

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