Find inspiration for your mission in God’s Word
By Rachel Padilla
We don’t often think about it, but Jesus was a teacher. The Bible is full of references to teaching and instructing others, as well as to God as our Divine Teacher. Both the Old and New Testament contain much wisdom on the topic. While the advice was directed at those who teach the faith, all Catholic teachers, regardless of subject matter or grade level, should strive to form not only the minds, but the hearts of their students. Educators today can find much wisdom, comfort, and encouragement from what Sacred Scripture has to say.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”
Jesus tells us that Heaven belongs to the childlike. Many teachers, parents, and care providers will tell you they have learned a lot from the children in their life. We are commanded to allow the children to come to Jesus and to not prevent them. Catholic teachers should take this heart. The opportunity to form children should not be taken up lightly. These little souls have a special place in Christ’s eyes. We should remember that guiding them is a privilege.
Train the young in the way they should go; even when old, they will not swerve from it.
Setting a positive example is most important with children. Long before neuroscience and psychology, the Bible knew the importance of formative years. What we say, what we do, and how, all matter in a particular way when working with children. Teachers need to be on guard and careful to model the behaviors they would hope their students to have now and as adults. When done right, the positive models students see will guide them throughout life.
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you realize that we will be judged more strictly.
This passage is especially for those who form hearts. We are reminded that teachers have a special power to influence those they teach. With it, comes a special responsibility. In another place, we are told that to the one who is given much, much will be expected. Teachers are in a position of authority. They have the amazing opportunity to form young hearts and minds. It should never be abused or forgotten.
May my teaching drop like the rain,
my speech condense like the dew;
like gentle rain on grass,
like showers on new growth.
Teachers want their words to encourage and guide students. This passage, a song recited by Moses, shows this is nothing new. The imagery of rain on grass leading to growth reveals what good teaching can do. A well-constructed lesson, a kind word, or an appropriate correction all have the possibility to leave a lasting impact. Teachers can help their students grow in knowledge, wisdom, and virtue guiding them closer to Christ and their future vocations.
Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.
In this passage the people of God are commanded to teach their children to serve the Lord. They are to recite the words to their children. Another translation read “drill them in to your children”. Educators are not excused from this responsibility simply because they don’t have a biological connection to their students. In most cases today, teachers have taken on much of the work of forming children in the faith. It is they who have the responsibility to recite the Lord’s word to them and teach them to love and serve Him.
And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ
While not everyone is called to the responsibility of being a teacher, those who are, have a special mission. They are called to use the gifts God gave them to build up the Body of Christ. This means evangelizing the hearts of students, ministering to them. St. Paul mentions teachers in the same breath as pastors, apostles, evangelists, and prophets. All of these roles carry a weight with them. They are positions of authority and respect. While teachers today may not see much respect today, they are still due it. They still have leadership in the classroom and the call to minister.
The Bible has many passages on teaching and forming others. These few hopefully help us to remember the privilege, responsibility, and opportunity teaching is. Forming young hearts and minds is a beautiful calling that we should all honor as the Scripture does.
Rachel Padilla has spent the last 4 years teaching children and youth about God and His love in parishes and Catholic schools. She currently lives in Colorado.
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