The ideal teacher

- Fr. Roy Cimagala - The Freeman

I suppose among the first things that come to mind when we think of how a good and ideal teacher should be are that he is competent, does continuing study and research on his subject, prepares his classes well, delivers them fluently, keeps good relation with his students and colleagues, submits grades punctually, etcetera.

Those are indeed excellent qualities but they are not enough. In fact, they simply are peripherals and can be dangerous and counterproductive if they are not inspired by the proper spirit of love. Without the latter, the other qualities would be at the mercy of other spirits not proper to us.

These otherwise good qualities would simply be conditioned and dependent on purely human desires and intentions that, no matter how well-founded, will always bear the marks of human frailties and vulnerabilities, and later of self-interest if not sheer malice.

Having the proper spirit is fundamental and indispensable for a teacher to be a good one. He should not only be a master of the subject he teaches, but he also should manage to inspire love for God and for others.

That is the proper spirit to have. A good teacher manages to relate the things he teaches, no matter how technical and mundane, to God and to others. He should inspire the students to love God and others more through the things he teaches.

Failure in this crucial point would expose the things taught and learned to the dynamics of merely worldly values that are very vulnerable to being used and exploited by evil spirits.

This is actually what is taking place these days. We have quite progressed in terms of knowledge. Our sciences and technologies are practically bursting with new developments and possibilities. We are having an overload. But without charity inspiring them, they can easily be misused and abused. Let's remember what St. Paul said once:

"Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up." (1 Cor. 8, 1)

A good and ideal teacher, let's reiterate it, always manages to relate the things taught to God and to inspire his students to love God and others through these things. The lessons he teaches are not merely technical things, or intellectual or theoretical affairs. He manages to link them to the abiding providential action of God.

In other words, while he is most rigorous in the technical and intellectual aspects of the lessons taught, his teaching is such that piety is not impaired or forgotten, but in fact, is fostered. He does not leave piety behind in his teaching. He does not think that the inputs of faith, hope and charity would be a hindrance in his teaching.

This is also another point to be overcome. Many people think that things of faith, hope and charity, the requirements of piety and all the other virtues are a drag to teaching. Well, not at all! On the contrary, they enrich their teaching, grounding and orienting them properly, and infusing them with prudence and other virtues.

The worldly lessons they transmit can acquire an eternal value. They cease to be simply practical and beneficial in a purely worldly way. They become vehicles for one's sanctification which, in the end, is the only thing necessary in this life. "What does it profit a man," Christ says, "if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?" (Mt 16, 26)

If we realize this point on what really would make for an ideal teacher, then we can discover what the real problem is, what the real handicap is in the area of education all over the world today.

It's the secularization of education, an education with hardly any relation to God. And if there is, that relation is mostly formalistic and ornamental. Even so-called Catholic schools can be accused of this. Cases in this area have sprouted all over the place, provoking the Vatican to act.

We need to see to it that the teachers in schools are not only technically competent, but also, and more importantly, spiritually healthy. We need to see to it that they know how to relate things to God and how to teach things in such a way that the love for God and for others increases. There has to be a way of measuring this, no matter how imperfect.

Obviously, there is need to train teachers in this most crucial point. This has to start somewhere, which can be no other than the higher authorities. With respect to the Church, it's the Holy Father, the Vatican, the bishops and priests. In the secular world, it should be the government and the different leaders in civil society.

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