Earlier today, I was speaking about the teaching profession and my many frustrations with some of my colleagues. The main frustration that I have is with teachers, who treat their work as a 9 to 5 job. Teaching is not merely a 9 to 5 job, but one carried out throughout the teacher’s day. Teachers may have limited time to work with students in the classroom, but the work should extend beyond the classroom.
I am not talking here about the need for a teacher to be approachable or to have office hours. I am talking about those teachers who treat their job as a way to make money. Indeed, teaching is a career that many people take on, but one can easily take it on for the wrong reasons. Taking on the job merely for its monitary rewards is one of those wrong reasons. Money isn’t everything, but teaching like you really mean it is.
As a teacher in training, I’m constantly trying to put into practice those things that I have learned from St. John Baptist de La Salle. One of those is putting the students first. It is easy for some teachers to forget that they are there for their students. Some don’t really ever see themselves as teachers, but as authority figures whose place it is to discipline and to tell it like it is. No matter how much discipline you put in, however, you will not be able to reach your students. A student does not need a rod in order to learn, but he needs love and that is what the teacher can offer.
By placing the student at the center of the classroom, the teacher decentralizes his own role. It is no longer he who is the fount of knowledge, but he is someone that is on an equal level with the student. The teacher’s job, of course, is to allow the student to learn. Yet he must not forget that the students can also teach him. Learning, after all, is a two way streets.
I have learned the most amazing lessons about life from the students that I have tutored over the years. I have come to an understanding about what it means to be an immigrant, to deal with drug addiction or spousal abuse, to have a learning or physical disability. By tutoring English at a local community college, I was able to see that my students were not merely people that came to me for help. I realized that they were human beings who needed to be loved and understood. In most cases, the help that they received on their papers was secondary to me. My priority always was to make them comfortable enough so that they could share with me. If we could share, then the learning process also becomes easier. Or so I have heard.
My students impacted me because I opened up myself to them and told myself that I should see Christ in them. It is very difficult for us to see Christ in other people. For some of us, we only see Christ in those we like or care about. Yet Christ is present in every person including the bus driver who always the slams the breaks, the old woman sitting on the same corner day after day, and the young single mother. Each of these people deserves our love and respect. The same equally applies to our students.
As teachers, we must learn to lose ourselves in our stories. If we are willing to see Christ in them and open ourselves up to Him, we will also open our hearts to our students. We know that God loves a cheerful giver, but students love a cheerful teacher even more. I cannot recount the number of times that I have joked or laughed with a student while working on a paper. Laughter is the best medicine and allowing our students to laugh also helps them to learn.
Of course, teaching is not a frustration free profession. Like every other profession, there are many problems. There will always be those students who are not motivated or who do not complete their assignments. There will be those days when we wished that we had stayed home or when we were woefully unprepared. In all of those circumstances, however, it is important for us to trust that God will provide us with the tools that we need and the help that is necessary for us to accomplish what needs to be done.
Teaching is not merely a 9 to 5 job, but something that can dominate your entire life. To form young minds is something that we cannot take lightly and is a great responsibility. But I will leave that for another day.