We pray that educators may be credible witnesses, teaching fraternity rather than competition and helping the youngest and most vulnerable above all.
As a veteran K-12 Catholic educator and educational consultant, I have years of experience in the classroom. However, lest hubris take root, it would be naive for me to think even for a moment that I have “seen it all,” so to speak. Students teach us every day, and it would be prudent for us to remain open to the lessons whereby they draw us closer to the Lord.
An important lesson that I had to learn as a new teacher was to reorder my priorities regarding how to most effectively see my students as made in the “image” and “likeness” of God (see Genesis 1:26-27). Just teach them and they will learn, I now laughably thought. As I was a bit too austere in my first couple of years teaching high school, I had to prayerfully realign the scope of my instruction so as to more meaningfully lead my students to Christ. After all, as the saying goes, we can’t give what we don’t have.
The way that I reformed how I approached teaching was to plan each lesson – and my outlook for each day – based on seeing my students as: 1) human beings first, 2) learners second, and 3) commodities never. In what Pope Francis has deemed today’s “throwaway culture,” in which we disregard the value of human life from the unborn to the elderly and condemned, and everyone in between, we must make a concerted effort as educators to afford our students the dignity that they are due (the first and third points, thereby demonstrating our love for God and neighbor). Our students may remember some lessons and forget others, but our example must encourage them to greater holiness and therefore proximity to God’s will (the second point, indicating that our love for them is ultimately oriented toward their eternity with the Father). After all, as Pope St. Paul VI so famously reminded us, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” Pray for God to instill in you a greater commitment to our youth by urging them along to sanctity in light of the sacramental and moral life, inspiring them to live as sons and daughters of the Almighty.
Justin McClain is a lay Dominican, husband, father, and veteran Catholic K-12 educator and consultant. He lives in Maryland. He is the author of several books, including Called to Teach, Alleluia to Amen, and the award-winning Called to Pray. More info: avemariapress.com/authors/justin-mcclain; @JustinMcClainOP (Twitter).