Ministry > Education
Teaching is the art of expecting a child to become the best person he/she can become. In this short essay, I wish to paint a picture of the essential components of teaching: beginnings, purity, growth, and vision. I now take up my brush.
I gather my easel, a white canvas, and painting accessories. As in painting, teaching requires a beginning. When I first started teaching in 1994, I embarked on a career with a difficult beginning but a promising future. I remember entering a classroom of thirty-five 6th graders, all staring at my unfamiliar blue habit, and to top it off, my matching "weird" veil. The first two weeks of school was nothing but inconceivable hell. There were many trying moments. While I was in the middle of teaching math, I heard knocking sounds; instinctively, I ambled to the door. To my surprise, no one was there. Immediately became aware of my students' trick. "I am sorry, but you can't come in at this time," I said naturally, hoping to hide my distress. The children giggled, and knowing I had won at least this battle, I proceeded on with my math lesson.
Another painful time was when, out of the blue, one of the most popular girls yelled out in front of the class, "Why do you always wear that dress? Is it for Halloween? After the two most difficult weeks, dealing with anxiety, setting expectations and writing teachable lesson plans, the class and I began to blossom in mutual love. At the end of the year, my students bade me good-bye with rivers of tears streaming forth from their eyes. My pains and trials had heightened my joys-just as in painting, it's the grays that make the other colors sing. Don't you agree?
I now rinse the color thoroughly from my brush, and with it, I pick up a full quantity of the next color. I choose blue and white, the color of rivers and oceans. Children are like virgin white canvas. Children are also like a body of pure water unruffled by wind and uncontaminated by mud or manmade pollutants. As teachers, we have the power to put the first mark on this canvas or trash our students with immoral ideas. Children are readily open to soak in ideas, thoughts and knowledge without fir filtering them. Sophia Ahmed, possessing a free spirit and an open mind, is a student I will never forget. To prepare Sophia for First Reconciliation, I taught her the common line: "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned..." The following week, after learning that Sophia had called one of the students a bad word, she came to me and confessed, "Blessed me, Sister, for I have sinned..." The unexpected humorous incidents defuse the blues, and tiredness, not to mention the mistakes. Allow me to expand on mistakes.
Mistakes are part of life, and so they inevitable occur in the classroom. I once accidentally put pen marks on an envelope, so I used a read marker to draw red apples to overlap my mistakes; thus, I tell my students, "Make apples out of your mistakes." We can't deny our mistakes, but we can embrace and learn from them. Another humorous anecdote I must tell is the time when my students sang, "Peace is flowing like a river, flowing out of you and me, flowing out into the desert, setting all the cactus free" - instead of "captives free"! No wonder that Jesus said in Luke 7:32, "Be like children playing pipes and inviting others to dance."
Even Monet and Van Gogh in the 19th century had to learn before they become flawless in their painting, and thus the next color we will put on our white canvas is the color green, the color of growth. At the begriming of the year, children enter the classroom without the essential tools to succeed in the grade level. Yet near the end of the year, children have the capabilities to succeed in the subsequent grade. Being with the children day in and day out, teachers can't help but see their children mature spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually. This very apparent end of the year progress gives me immense joy. Frank, who reminds me often of Elvis Presley because of his looks, is a constant reminder of hope. Fidgeting in his chair, hitting intentionally the student next to him, and taking my things without permission are actions Frank would exhibit. However, as the year progressed, Frank became more obedient, more of a listener, more sensitive to those around him, and more careful not to touch what did not belong to hi. Once at a retreat, children were given aluminium foil to fashion according to their whim who or what God is to them. Frank fashioned his foil into a fan, explaining that when he gets angry, God cools him down.
Many of these students have broken families that affect both their academic progress in school and social dealings with others. As a teacher and religious sister, I am called to embrace all their fears and wounds and place them trustingly in the hands of the Lord. God puts hope in me; children learn to hope because we believe and hope in them. To paraphrase what Jesus said, children, like seeds, will grown into lush beautiful trees, where birds of the air can come and rest. With God as the Master Teacher, my entrusted children will mature beautifully as the grown.
To complete my painting, I add a beautiful horizon with the sun rising and beaming forth, as if to proclaim God's all-embracing love. Like the sun, I surrender myself and let God shine forth through me. As a sister, I make sure my students receive an extra dose of God's love everyday. EAch child that God has entrusted to me has great significance and importance to HIm, the Creator God. The acme of my teaching career as a religious sister is to implant in children a vision based on God's love for them-a vision of hope for the future, a vision of love for others, a vision of courage and perseverance to strive for the best, thus a vision to make the world a better place in which to live. I must remember that the value of my teaching lies not only in present success, but in attempts made to ensure my children's future successes.
Yes, a hundred years from now, it won't matter how much I had, but it will matter how much I gave to children with whom God entrusted me. But not only do I give to children, they also weave a golden thread of God's love and presence in my life. I have often been asked if I thought a person had to be born with a talent to teach in order to be a good life. I have often been asked if I though a person had to be born with a talent to teaching order to be a good teacher. Most people who have a desire to teach have some talent because a person rarely wants to do something for which he/she had no aptitude. Each day of teaching is renewed by the grace of God; I must live in the light of God everyday in order to reap the most copious harvest. "The harvest is plenty, but laborers are few. Come..."(Mt. 9:37). First as a religious sister, and then a teacher, I am called to paint a picture of God's love in children's lives anew every year.