Reading: From Christian Education by Bl. Basil Moreau
Lazy Young People
Laziness is not only avoiding work and desiring to waste time away on all those enjoyments that are so natural for the young, but above all laziness is a softness and an indolence that makes students sometimes apathetic and incapable of anything that is serious, noble, and generous. This quality in some students is one of the most irritating, since it amounts to removing the hope of one day seeing the acquisition of good habits. Every good habit is brought about by doing violence to oneself in a series of acts. That is the way one can break in a fiery horse and make it gentle, docile under the master’s hand, untiring in work. What good use can one expect from a horse without this vigor?
Lazy students lack the active push that each of us needs from ourselves. They do not have the energetic zest that carries ardent students a long distance. They must then be pressured, sharpened as much by the promise of rewards as by threat of the punishments that they deserve. This twofold way dealing with lazy students ought, however, to be used with discretion and prudence, for there are young people who, if pushed too abruptly or too far, will resist such efforts and will become obstinate, believing that the impossible is being asked of them. They will then do nothing of what is requested of them. Every hope of then getting them to progress will be lost. The teacher, perhaps thinking them totally inept, will then abandon them to decay for lack of care and nurture.
Thus a teacher should avoid excessive zeal with lazy students and practice combining firmness with wise leniency. Teachers must be aware of the natural trouble that lazy students have with work and let no opportunity to overcome this problem pass by. Teachers must let words and counsel call lazy students to their obligation toward work and also join to that their own example and the example of others, using every possible way to encourage what is most noble in the young people entrusted to their care. §
Young People in Weak Health
In dealing with young people who are in poor health, one must give them compassion, interest, and attention. It is important to lessen some of the requirements of them, to plan for them, and to see to it that they always find cleanliness in the school. It is especially important that the air be clean and often renewed. In anything related to instruction, although teachers should keep them in regular classes, they should be less demanding of these students when assigning duties and lessons. Even when the student is at fault, teachers should be somewhat indulgent as long as other students do not read this as injustice.
In general, teachers should treat such students like those who are extremely gentle and somewhat timid in character. These young people are not generally inclined to waste time as much as others, and their misfortune prevents them generally from getting into some of the difficulties that their fellow students face. The example of those who do well and the natural fear of penalties and punishments they see given out are usually enough to deter them from laziness and encourage them to complete their assigned work. It is often easy to keep such students in good order without severe punishment. Their physical condition, usually well known to others, will serve as an excuse for the teacher’s special way of dealing with them. A teacher can always use this reason in dealing with questions raised about equality of treatment. §
The considerations discussed above can assist teachers in distinguishing the qualities of their students, in knowing students’ faults, and in guiding teachers in developing good order in the classroom and school. But these alone are not enough to give teachers a complete knowledge of teaching and the education of young people, a knowledge that each teacher must grasp in order to fulfill worthily the role of a teacher. In conducting a class there are a thousand details, a thousand circumstances teachers run into in practice that cannot even be conceived of before the circumstances arise. These will naturally disconcert a young teacher completely new to teaching and inexperienced in the ways students act.
It is necessary then to join to what has already been said some other counsels related to the running of a school. They can help a young teacher make up for the lack of experience that is naturally lacking in those who are beginning to teach and that often weakens the authority they need for success. Young teachers must not come to believe that it is age, body size, tone of voice, or threats that give teachers authority and inspire respect among students. It is none of these external advantages, but rather a character that is fair, firm, and modest, one that is consistent at all times and that never acts without reason or through outbursts. It is these qualities that keep everything in order, establish good discipline, see that regulations are observed, make reprimands few, and forestall punishments. Actually, the authority a teacher exercises over students depends, above all, on the way in which the teacher begins. Nobody knows a teacher then; they wait to see how the teacher presents himself or herself and then judge the teacher. Teachers who do not grasp this favorable moment, who do not put themselves in charge of the class from the first day, will then have all the trouble in the world in getting back the authority that they did not seize in the first place. The ideas contained here are meant to help teachers not fall into this trap due to a lack of good principles. §
MEDITATION — ANDREW SEELEY
Lazy students can be so vexing – we love knowing and we love the student, and their laziness is a frustrating and seemingly unbreachable wall. Yet, Blessed Basil reminds us to follow that Thomistic principle and start with these pupils where they are at, not where we want them to be or think they should be. Patience is one of the most essential virtues of a teacher, and lazy students need to be dealt with with great patience and the long term goal in mind. This is often one of our greatest challenges in the classroom. At the same time, we must be firm enough to demand of them so they can reach beyond this pernicious vice. An abiding love for the student, a love rooted in Christ, is certainly the surest path to the virtues we need to lead that child to knowledge, wonder and the beginnings of eagerness, the virtue opposite of laziness. Even if these only begin as seeds with us, we take solace in the fact that we have created a beginning of the path beyond laziness for that student, so in later years they begin to thrive.
As a father of a disabled son, I know intimately the interior challenges every one of these children have. They battle all sorts of things physically, and this has a direct effect on their emotional, psychological and intellectual well being. Even if they often do not show it, they suffer interior challenges none of their peers have to experience. Therefore, with kindness and gentleness, we must understand when they cannot perform up to the normal standard, but with that same spirit we help them to achieve more than they thought they could. This gives them the bolstering of spirit that is so important to them in particular.
Blessed Basil understands that discipline is essential to learning (and love), so he counsels, in so many words, to follow the old adage, “Don’t smile until Thanksgiving.” With all the lofty thoughts and high ideals he addresses, it was nice to see the purely practical closing lines. Blessed Basil is a wonderful model for us to go back to again and again for age-old wisdom in our calling as teachers.
How do Blessed Basil’s words resonate in my own self? Do I need to root out my own lazy tendencies more perfectly so that I can serve God in the plan He has for me as a teacher to these children? Am I building my lessons in a way that they inspire more wonder? Am I maintaining the proper atmosphere of rigor accompanied by visible rewards to help inspire the students to perfect their own capabilities and gifts? Am I praying for an understanding of my students that can come only from the Holy Spirit, so I might know the true needs of their minds and hearts? Do I try to meet them where they are and then bring them far up the ladder of learning? Am I patient enough? Am I demanding enough?
Dear Lord, thank you for the great model of St. Joseph, the perfect teacher and earthly father whom you have deigned to receive special honors in this coming year. May we teachers come to understand his great power as a model of a teacher who understood good, honest hard work, coupled with a deep tenderness and attention to the One before him. Dear St. Joseph, Most Prudent, Most Faithful, and Mirror of Patience, pray for us!
Please also offer one Mass and one Rosary some time this month for the intentions of the members of the Confraternity.