Reading: From Christian Education by Bl. Basil Moreau
Students and Student-Teacher Relations
It would be a serious mistake to open a school imagining that all the students will be alike in character and conduct. Providence varies all of its works. If two plants of the same family, apart from similar characteristics, have obvious differences, it is no less true that in the group of students given to you there are no two who have the exact same mind and heart. It will do little good then to use the same procedures in working with every student. You would be like a doctor who always gives the same remedy for every illness.
This in itself should be enough to point out the importance of beginning the year or semester by studying your students. If you are taking the place of another teacher in a class, it is important to gain all of the information the other teacher can give you about the students. In order to facilitate this study, which requires a lot of attention, there are some things you can look for to help you understand the different types of students you will be educating.
You can use the following information to determine the most suitable way to approach each student. Never forget that all teaching lies in the best approach to an individual student, that all the successes you find will be in direct proportion to the efforts you have made in this area. In the different natures of young people, one can actually distinguish several characteristics marking them as poorly brought up or spoiled by their parents, unintelligent, self-centered, opinionated, insolent, envious, without integrity, immature, lazy, or in poor health.
Young People Who Are Spoiled or Have Poor Upbringing
There are young people for whom parents show little care. These young people never do what their parents want, never follow directions, and murmur at the least thing that goes against what they think they desire. They are often dirty, disgusting, and unpolished. They are sometimes impertinent, impolite, teasing, and extravagant, openly yawning, making faces, mimicking the faults of teachers and students. They are children spoiled by indulgence who will tire at the least hint of work and who will become disconcerted at the least punishment. They have become accustomed to seeing their least wishes satisfied and having all their little whims gratified.
Often students who have been poorly brought up are those from rich families, who think of themselves as being so superior as to give themselves an air of authority over their fellow students and independence from their teachers and who believe that they have a right to special consideration and attentions. If it happens that someone makes fun of their ridiculous pretensions, they complain to their parents of poor treatment.
Such young people have great need of being formed by proper education. To achieve this requires much patience, kindness, and charity. A teacher will have to treat them with considerable indulgence, because if they have all these faults, it is not due to a shallow spirit or bad judgment or a poor internal disposition but because they have been left to grow up without direction. You must show them a lot of kindness, display an interest in them, and correct them when necessary, but always in a fatherly manner; when you do correct them, give them only easy punishments that will really help them.
It is also good to have contact with parents in such situations in order to anticipate the accusations and recriminations of the young person and to support your own authority with theirs. This is a troublesome and delicate task. Expect to have a lot of duplicity and annoyance, but strengthen yourself by remembering the example given by our Lord: he also educated, not only children and young parents but also persons already advanced in age and consequently possessing all the prejudices and the bad habits that people so often pick up in the course of their lives.
In fact, recall that the apostles, chosen and formed in the school of our Lord, were unsophisticated, unlettered, and taken from the lowest class of society and combined a lack of education with a lot of ambition, self-love, and egotism. Admire the unchanging gentleness and untiring zeal that the Lord always showed. In all his teaching and actions, he tried only to inform them, to instruct them, and to make new men of them. As teachers, then, meditate on this example and try to pattern your own teaching after it.§
MEDITATION — ANDREW SEELEY
My most important parenting maxims I learned from an aunt who never had children of her own. She was a public school teacher for over thirty years. By the time she retired, she was teaching what she described as “a third generation of unparented children.” She would have immediately recognized Blessed Basil’s description of spoiled students (and their often difficult parents). Blessed Basil would have approved of her response — love and discipline. She not only felt love for them, she made clear to them that their welfare was her preeminent concern. She never overreacted to their antics, but she also never let them disrupt the classroom. It wasn’t long before they realized that her respectful but firm discipline was just another face of her loving concern for them.
Have I found time to focus on my students individually, especially those who need attention the most? Do I regularly discuss their strengths and weaknesses, possibilities and needs, with fellow teachers in order to determine the most effective approaches to help them? Do I pray for patience and peace to avoid overreacting to a student’s bad behavior?
O Lord, Blessed Basil encouraged me to meditate on the example You left of dealing with the many faults of Your disciples. What a blessing to realize that in my struggles as a teacher I am striving to conform myself to You. I beg You to make my meditation profitable, so that my students may know Your loving care in my classroom.
Please also offer one Mass and one Rosary some time this month for the intentions of the members of the Confraternity.