Rebecca | A Solitary Bird
One can only teach what one practices. In many respects this means we are all teachers. Our principles and moral views will influence our reasoning and our conduct.
In addition, to teach does not mean to merely give what we have but rather what we are. What we are should be Christ. Christ should be in our thoughts and actions. Since, we as parents are our children’s first and primary educators, the Gospels will shed light on some basic principles in the art of education. Particularly, reflection on our Lord Jesus and observing His manner in educating His followers will provide us with the model of a perfect teacher.
Before going further we must consider what is meant by the term education. Edith Stein defined education as the formation of the human person and notes that “the first fundamental formation happens within the soul”. The purpose of education is to bring what is already there in seed form to its full potential.
Now the qualities of a good teacher would be those we find in Christ: authority, love, wisdom and unselfishness. These are the qualities that will nourish the seed in the souls entrusted to us.
As parents we are the lawful educators of our children, and this task has been given to us by God. God is the one who gives someone the authority to educate. It is God who ordains the Church to instruct His flock. Similarly, as parents, we can appoint others to instruct our children, and we have the right and authority from God to do this. As a parent we need to keep in mind that we are acting as His representative to our children. We are discharging these duties as educators in His name. Therefore, we should expect respect, obedience, trust and love from our children for His sake, not ours. Our intentions in educating our children should be the same intentions of God. Jesus sets the example for parents:
“Jesus answered them and said, “My teaching is not my own but is from the one who sent me.” (John 7:16)
Because we represent God we should have our children’s obedience, trust and love. We cannot have this from them unless we love them. To win their love and confidence is vital if we are to accomplish anything. In order to have any influence on someone there must be love. Our love for them must be expressed in our words and deeds.
“Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”After he placed his hands on them, he went away.” (Matthew 19:13-14)
“Love and trust are necessary rudiments for every educational influence. The teacher must love consistently thereby winning this love and trust.”
Our children are dear to us just as they are dear to Jesus. We should love and reverence them the same way Jesus does. As educators of our children we want to protect them from any misery or ruin that would be the result of a faulty education. We are all well aware of the corruption that is out there battling for the souls
of our children. So with this in mind, we want our children to be happy at home and in our presence because they know they are loved and treasured. They should know that we have their best interests in mind and want nothing but their good. We also need to have their hearts. Patience, gentleness and sympathy all belong to love. Our children need these qualities in their teachers.
Due to the weakness of children, the work of educating can be difficult. The young can be irresponsible, forgetful and cursory. They will often make mistakes; therefore, we must be patient with them. To try to educate children and to do so with impatience could do no good but only bring with it harm. Patience will secure respect, win their love, bless us with the blessings of the cross and make our efforts prosperous. We will need to meet them where they are at and gently lead them from there.
“Then Peter* said to him in reply, “Explain [this] parable to us.” He said to them, “Are even you still without understanding?” (Matthew 15:15)
A teacher must have wisdom. As educators we need to have some common sense to make the appropriate judgment in regard to the particular situation at hand. A knowledge and understanding of human nature will be a valuable aid to the prudence needed in educating others. Self-control, counsel and prayer are also needed. A teacher needs to be careful to avoid making mistakes and prevent unfortunate occurrences. They will, therefore, need to be wise in their government.
“A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory.” (Matthew 12: 20)
Finally, a good teacher, like Christ, will be self-less, not self-seeking and will have a good and upright life. Children will learn from teachers more by who we are. The kind of person we are will speak more to those we are instructing than anything else. We need to possess the virtues we want our children to learn. They need to see them in us and how they are worked out in practice. We, as parents and educators, need to be striving for holiness. We need to be straightforward and fair when dealing with children. In this way we will be teaching the way Jesus taught.