Monday, May 31, 2010

The most dangerous profession

Have you ever noticed how teachers are often portrayed as martyrs? This was one of the main themes of La lengua de las mariposas, a Spanish language film I watched recently.

What can be more poignant than an educator pouring out his life for the sake of his pupils?

Dead Poet's Society, Stand and Deliver...classics! The teacher unlocks the imagination; sets new standards; brings the misfit out of his shell. And let's not forget the frontier schoolmistresses who could do everything: teach all the grade levels at once, keep the fire going, and handle a rifle to stave off wolves and other more/-

Though dramatized by Hollywood, the expectation on a teacher is great. He must navigate a web of relationships. Parents want their children to succeed. Children want to be entertained. The administration wants those kids to be meeting national standards.

What is a teacher to do? If he sticks to the rules, he is boring. If he thinks outside the box, trying new approaches to teaching, he could create a scandal.

I had a substitute teacher for a few days at the university. She spoke very fast and sharply, and many of us in the group agreed that she was a bit intimidating. "Oh, no," said my friend in the group, a fellow missionary. "I had her last semester and she was one of my favorites. She just seems a little harsh at first."

We had her again today, and my friend was right. She was a good teacher. She got to the heart of confusion, answering all our questions. She encouraged us to use new concepts right away; to apply them in our speech. She managed to give compliments to those who were struggling, lifting their spirits.

In the middle of the class, the teacher told us, "Let's get away from syntax for a moment. What were your first impressions of me?" We squirmed, not wanting to reveal our collective mistaken opinion. "Many students think I'm too strict," she said. "But I'm really not. First impressions can be wrong."

Have you ever been touched by seeing the "human" side of a teacher? Or as a teacher, have you ever looked at a mischievous class of students and felt that they didn't even see you as a person?

For all the misunderstandings that teachers experience, comfort is found in the life of Christ. Here is one profession that we can say for sure was close to Him. We don't know all the details, but we know that as a teacher He was received sometimes with crowds and cheering, sometimes with ostracism. Sometimes He was admired; sometimes rejected as a radical.

The teachers in the movies are sometimes killed; or die a symbolic death as they risk much. I know many non-Christian teachers who pour themselves out to the same extent, while not knowing Christ. But the fact that there is a Savior who shared their profession and understands their challenges-this can be a point of conversation, and a source of hope.

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