It seems to me that of all the vocations one may be called to that of teacher seems to be one of those that God holds us accoutable for the most. As teachers, we are given the responsibility to mold children and young adults into the image of God by our example, our charity, our faith, and our zeal. Yet why is it then that so few people take the responsibility of teaching in a way that is flippant? Why is it that so few truly realize its importance?
As a teacher, one of the most important things one must realize is that every student is created in the image and likeness of God. Yes, it is very easy to forget and yet wouldn’t our lives as teachers be transformed by this? Would not the way that we teach change because we saw God in each of them? I think this is something that I am coming to understand as I end my scholastic career as a Master’s student. Each student in my ESL classes brings something new and different to the table. Each one is valuable and beautiful in the eyes of God. Therefore, I must treat them that way.
It is true that I often fail in this. I am only too easily irritated by the students and their behavior. Yet one of the hardest lessons that I have learned as a teacher is to see through another’s eyes. Indeed, empathy is one of those things that makes a great teacher. If we are able to empathize with our student, our methods will change. Yet empathy is such a difficult virtue to gain. Sometimes, it can be really difficult to have empathy for students that are loud, brash, and unwilling to listen, but we must look for something good inside of them.
It seems to me as well, and St. John Baptist De La Salle wrote about this extensively, that a teacher will influence his students by his examples. If one comes on time, treats students with respect, and does not look down on them, the students will look up to the teacher and imitate his ways.
It is also important to emphasize here that a teacher must be both disciplinarian and friend. It is not easy to strike a balance between the two because some teachers will swing on a pendulum, but it must be done. One must discipline with moderation and be kind in moderation. Our discipline must not come from anger at something a student did or did not do, but rather from a sense of God’s own justice. De La Salle wrote that if one meted out punishment to a student tha was too harsh, then one might as well not have lifted the strap to begin with. Yet discipline must also be done silently and with the understanding that the student does have the potential to improve his ways. It does not mean punishing a student for no apparent reason.
Above all, De La Salle emphasized that our students will see our zeal and faith. These are commodities that cannot be overlooked. A teacher who takes his faith seriously and zealous towards saving souls cannot but help to convert his students. It is something that moves students even more than discipline. It is part of leading by example. If the teacher shows that he is faithful, then the students will follow him.
All of these are just some aspects of De La Salle’s message to teachers in his “Conduct of the Christian Schools.” It is a message that must be meditated on and re-read by teachers every school year because of its timeliness and importance. De La Salle may not have wanted to become a teacher or to found the Brothers of the Christian Schools, but God gave him this work to prove that one can teach children with kindness and understanding.
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!
St. John Baptist de La Salle, pray for us!