If I could be given any gift to help me in my job as a teacher, I know exactly what I would ask for. I haven't ever seen one, but I know that I need it. I want a special kind of mirror that I can hold up for my students to gaze into, and instead of seeing themselves as they always do, they would see themselves as I see them.

I first began to wish for this magical mirror while sitting with a student who had spent the last twenty or so hours in bed after taking a handful of Tylenol and downing it with a six pack of beer. She told me that she was hideously fat, too ugly to be seen in public, and while she didn't want to kill herself, she wanted to get messed up enough to not feel anything for a while.

I don't quite understand who she was seeing In front of me sat a lovely young woman; a warm, caring, intelligent and attractive girl who was adored by her fellow students and the other teachers. She saw someone else. I don't quite understand who it was she was seeing, or why, but as I sat and cried with her I told her about my magic mirror, holding up my hand and staring into it, as if together we might be able to wish it into existence.

Yesterday I had a class with a different young woman. She listened and read, shared ideas and a song. She seemed to me to have had the kind of childhood I would have picked, had I been given a choice, and she seemed to be headed for a promising future, yet somewhere along the line something must have gone wrong. After class I heard from another staff member that this same girl's mind is so filled with suicidal and other destructive thoughts that she is afraid to be alone with herself. Again I wished for my magical mirror.

With these thoughts fresh in my mind I opened my e-mail. A picture appeared. In the thumbnail were a mother and daughter with huge smiles, arm in arm, rejoicing together at a wedding. When I clicked on the picture it came up huge on the screen. Now I saw wrinkles, age marks, crooked teeth and spotty mascara. I went back to the thumbnail, a picture of pure happiness. After having seen the close up I noticed the wrinkles in the smaller picture, too, but they were in the supporting role and not center stage. It was still a beautiful picture.

They see the thumbnail, not the big picture I do the same thing to myself. There are people who see great things in me, but for the most part they are looking at the thumbnail, not the close-up. They don't see me first thing in the morning with a smushy face lined with sleep – but not enough of it – getting aggravated over every little obstacle between me and the bus that will come to collect my children, even if the "obstacle" is the children themselves! They don't see the inner struggles, the ugly thoughts, the stupid and hurtful mistakes made in the privacy of my own mind and home. I tend to zoom in on the negative, hoping that by doing so I might be able to fix something, though in truth more progress has been made in my life when I've focused on the vision of my heart, and not the details of my sharp eye.

Vision. A friend of mine once asked a great woman, a woman who raised many children, each of whom became a rabbi, teacher, kabbalist, or community leader—a success in every true measure of success: "Can you give me some advice on raising children? How did you do what you did?"

She answered briefly, after a few moments of thought, "Tzarich chazon – You need vision." Although chazon also means prophecy, a mother or teacher does not need to be a prophet in order to see the greatness of a child's soul – but it does take prophetic vision.

What made this great woman's children as great as she herself was not only the vision that she held for them. From the day they were born, and maybe even before, she acted in accordance with her vision. Every day, every moment of their childhood, she saw them not only as children but as leaders-in-training, and dealt with them accordingly, teaching and demonstrating the tools and traits that they would need for their trades.

I see my students as diamonds In Hebrew the word for education is chinuch. It contains within it the word chein, grace. Maybe the essence of education is seeing the true grace hidden within our students. When we see the shine of their souls and reflect it back to them, it inspires them to aspire to reach their true potential.

There is a beautiful story of a woman who waited one Sunday to receive a dollar from the Lubavitcher Rebbe. It was the custom that on Sundays hundreds of people would come to receive a dollar, intended for charity, and a blessing as they passed by. This woman waited for a number of hours in line. When it was finally her turn, she asked the Rebbe how he had the stamina to stand for so long when she, much younger in years, was exhausted. He responded: "When you count diamonds, you don't get tired." No matter what the issue, concern, or baggage a person approached the Rebbe with, he saw past all the muck. He saw the beauty within. He saw the diamond.

So, too, I view my students as diamonds and I have a vision for them. I see their beauty and strength from a perspective that they do not yet have. I see some of the close-up with it's fault lines that seem to go on forever, but I've been around long enough not to believe them. I see the bigger picture of who they are today, and hold in my heart a vision of who they may yet be. I have yet to be asked for my magical wish list, but if I continue to teach and treat my students in accordance with the vision of my heart, I believe that they will come to see that image in the mirror on the wall.