Reading: From The Preventative System in the Education of the Young
Critical Edition: P. Braido – Translation & Notes: P. Laws Introduction
by St. John Bosco
II. Application of the Preventative System (continued)
Someone might say that this system is difficult in practice. I reply that from the point of view of the students it turns out easier, more satisfying, more advantageous. In the case of the educator, it does include some difficult features, which however are diminished if the educator addresses the task with devotion. An educator is one devoted to the well-being of his students, and for this reason ought to be ready to face every inconvenience, every fatigue in order to achieve his goal, which is the civil, moral and intellectual education of his students.
Over and above the advantages set out above, I would also add:
1: The student will have the greatest respect for the educator and will go on recalling with pleasure the orientation he was given, always considering his teachers and the other Superiors as fathers and brothers. Wherever they go, these students are generally the consolation of their families, useful citizens and good Christians.
2: Whatever might be the character, the attitude, the moral state of a pupil at the time he is enrolled, his parents can be secure in the knowledge that their son will not deteriorate, and one may confidently assert that one will achieve some improvement. Indeed, certain youngsters who for a long time were the scourge of their parents, and were even refused entry into houses of correction, when cared-for according to these principles, changed their attitude, their character, they set themselves to live a decent life, and now fill honourable places in society, thus becoming the support of their families, and a credit to the area they live in.
3: Pupils having unfortunate habits who perchance should gain entry into an Institute will not be able to harm their fellows, nor will good boys be harmed by them, because there will be neither time, place, or opportunity, insofar as the assistant, whom we presume to be present, would rapidly put things right.
A Word on Punishments
What criteria should one observe when inflicting punishment? Where possible, one should not make use of punishments, but when necessity demands repression, one should bear in mind the following:
1: The educator at work amongst his pupils should make himself loved, if he wishes to be respected. In this case the omission of an act of goodwill is a punishment, but a punishment that acts as a challenge, encourages, and never disheartens.
2: With the young, what is used as a punishment becomes a punishment. One can observe that a less-than-loving look is for some worse than being struck. Praise when something is done well, blame when there is negligence, are already reward and punishment.
3: Except in very rare cases, corrections, punishments should never be given in public, but privately, apart from companions, and one should use the greatest prudence and patience to have the student understand his fault through reason and religion.
4: To strike one in any way, to make one kneel in a painful position, to pull any one’s ears and similar punishments should be absolutely avoided, because they are forbidden by the law of the land, they greatly irritate the young, and they degrade the educator.
5: The Rector should make the rules well known, along with the rewards and punishments set down in the disciplinary policy, so that no pupil might be able to excuse himself by saying he did not know what was commanded or forbidden If in our houses this system is put into practice I believe that we will be able to achieve excellent results without resorting either to corporal punishment, nor to other violent punishments. For these forty years during which I have dealt with the young, I do not remember ever having used any kind of punishment, and with the help of God I have always got not only what was necessary, but even had my wishes met, and that from those same young people for whom every hope of a good outcome seemed in vain.
The great Saint John Bosco knew how to set the bar high. “An educator is one devoted to the well-being of his students, and for this reason ought to be ready to face every inconvenience, every fatigue in order to achieve his goal, which is the civil, moral and intellectual education of his students.” Did you learn this in the courses you took for your teaching credential? How blessed we are to have saints that tell us the truth! Here is the job description of the teacher.
And the practical guidance from St. John Bosco: the educator should make himself loved. How? Through love, through attention, through not getting angry when the child acts like a child. Look at the situation from the child’s point of view, so you can say: I see why you would think of it that way. Here is some more information that you need to consider.
The entire preventive system of St. John Bosco is a prolonged act of love: it is being present to the students, not in physical space only, but again in attention and concern for where troubles might arise. Those Salesians were not checking their cell phones, nor were they swapping stories with the Brothers at recess. They were present with the attention that does not wish to be elsewhere.
St. John Bosco was loving and strong. Best of all, he was prudent, knowing how and when to be loving while also being strong. He knew his students well because he cared about them and paid attention to them, in the classroom and out — often playing with the boys in their athletics and other amusements.
Do I endeavor first to know my students by giving them my attention? Am I willing to spend “my time” in knowing them better so I can care for them better?
Do I recognize my students’ need for love and for strength? In Bosco’s time, there was a prevailing manner of harshness exercised toward the young; today’s culture is different, where many give to the young whatever they want. Do I fail to follow through with consequences that would help students learn, and excuse it as being “loving”? Do I fail to plan, acting surprised that students misbehave, and lashing out at them in a childish manner?
Do I openly discuss the challenges in my classroom with someone who can guide me? Do I seek the help of a mentor? Do I earnestly pray to be more like Christ the Teacher?
Dear Lord Jesus, Good Shepherd of souls, in Your eyes all of us are students. Give me courage to look honestly at myself, so I may better imitate You. And in seeing truth, I shall see better the truth of what my students need. Let us together, Lord, with Your eyes, see these beloved children of Yours, so that we can know what they need in order to awaken, wonder, see, and love.
Please also offer one Mass and one Rosary sometime this month for the intentions of the members of the Confraternity.