On a golden September day in 1946, right after Labor Day, I began my education in the “little kids building” of a Catholic school in Cleveland, Ohio. Here is what I remember of that day. I walked to and from school, just over one mile, along tree lawns and front yards dappled with marigold, ochre, apricot, and scarlet colored leaves. I wandered into the city with its simple commerce of pet stores, bakeries and butcher shops. I was now in a new world, and all because of school. I remember the children laughing, throwing balls, and jumping rope. I remember looking up to what seemed an interminable height of the ominous black robe of a nun that folded a human being somewhere inside who had a kind voice and eyes like amethysts peering out of what I called a white box around her face! Of course, I was going to be a teacher. What little girl wasn’t? We shelved our paper dolls and enlisted younger brothers and sisters or stuffed animals as students. We taught school in the basement. We looked toward a future in education, at least for a while.
Recently, I came across a quote from the Book of Hosea that got me to thinking about the vocation of the teacher. After 40 years of teaching and learning, I realize that I seldom, if ever, encountered a teacher who was unkind or selfish in the classroom. Of course, this is not everyone’s experience. Teachers, on the whole, value their careers as more than a job. In Hosea, the prophet attempts to lift his people to knowledge guarding them against falsehoods leading to war and oppression. The sensitive prophet says, “I drew them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love; I stooped to feed them and they did not know I was their healer.” (Hosea 11:4) Is this not a real teacher? A good teacher threads kindness in all she or he does throughout every day and ties the knowledge with love.
A recent survey by EdSurge, an education website, was taken to measure teacher reactions to the pandemic as it effects education. The survey’s first question was, “What is the one thing about your job you wish the public knew?” It prompted virtually the same answer across the board. “I wish they knew how much I love their children and how much I miss them.” No one referred to salaries, work environments, poor academic tests, ineffective administrators. All referred to love of children.
Many families are now experiencing loss of income, jobs, supportive communities. Meanwhile, they are nervously assisting their children to decide how to attend school, in sync, online, hybrid, face-to-face. As a parent, you worry about the lack of social interaction, friendships growing stale as your child grows older. But as school begins, the one thing you need not worry about is the dedication of your child’s teachers. Be supportive of them. Pray for them so they won’t lose the enthusiasm they brought to their vocation. You may not like what the system demands of the teacher but you should always appreciate that the teacher will thread the cords of kindness in imparting knowledge to your child.
Why not include teachers, especially ones you know personally, your daily prayers? Some will have to challenge the systems they work in but they do it for the safety of children and their families. Include this in your prayer.
Jesus was a master teacher, mostly in adult education. What can you learn from the ways he taught? Read the Gospels carefully to reflect on Jesus’ methods as he drew others to him with “cords of human kindness (and) love.”