Summer vacation is over, and another school year is about to begin. Instructors are headed to their classrooms, and catechists are headed to their faith formation groups. The main focus of education rightfully belongs on the students, but it is also a high priority to reflect on the role of those who facilitate the learning process, teachers and catechists.
In education, a teacher who is experienced, highly effective, and an expert at training new teachers is a “Master Teacher.” Jesus explained that these attributes belong to him when he told his disciples, “You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am” (Jn 13:13). Christian teachers who wish to excel in their ministry would be wise to take their cues from the greatest teacher of all.
Love all the students. It is difficult to love every student. Some resist. Others are slow. Peter was impulsive. James and John wanted the best positions, the others were indignant, and they squabbled among themselves. Jesus knew that Judas Iscariot would betray him. The disciples had their shortcomings. Every student does. Yet, Jesus loved each of them, and his authentic love for his learners was the single greatest secret to his success.
Pray for your students. Jesus prayed for his disciples, and teachers should pray for their students. Prayer not only asks God’s grace and blessing for the students, it also has a transforming effect on the teacher’s disposition toward their students.
Ask the Holy Spirit for help. The Holy Spirit came down on Jesus at his baptism before he began his public ministry as teacher, and the Spirit gave him wisdom, insight, inspiration, energy, and courage. Teachers should pray to the Holy Spirit for the guidance and understanding they need to carry out their ministry.
Prepare; study before teaching. Jesus may have lacked a formal education, but he had an inquisitive mind, and he learned from others and on his own. Mary and Joseph homeschooled him. He was in the custom of going to the synagogue on the Sabbath day (Lk 4:16) where he was taught by the rabbis. He went to the Temple in Jerusalem where he sat “in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions” (Lk 2:46). From the way that he quoted Scripture, it is evident that he spent long hours in study and memorization with the books of the Bible. Teachers who follow the example of Jesus do their homework. They study before they teach, and they come to class with a well-prepared plan.
Use a variety of methods. Jesus taught with lectures such as the Sermon on the Mount. He was fond of storytelling with his parables. He frequently taught large groups, but there were a number of occasions when he pulled his disciples aside for small group learning, and he also taught individuals as a tutor. An assortment of approaches keeps learning interesting.
Be patient and kind. The disciples were confused when Jesus taught in parables and asked, “Why do you speak … in parables?” (Mt 13:10). Jesus did not get irritated. Instead, he patiently explained his imagery (Mt 13:18-23; 36-43). Many students do not comprehend the first time. Jesus shows how to treat slower learners with extra kindness and provide additional instruction.