There are precious few vocations where the freedoms are as great and the responsibilities as grave as that of teaching. And for a Lasallian educator, the call is to live and to love on an entirely different level. More specifically, we are to understand that those entrusted to our care are not simply students, they are neighbors.
In being called to love those who sometimes seem more stranger than neighbor, we are to see our students as individual selves who bear the image and likeness of God, and who thus possess incalculable dignity and worth. But how, in very practical terms? I’m glad you asked!
It stands to reason that if I, as a Lasallian educator, am called to be the face of Love to my students, then one rather obvious implication of that calling is to care about the things they care about, to try to understand why they care about those things as they do, and to encourage in them a greater, deeper awareness of their heart’s desires and the Object of those desires.
Doing so is seldom easy, as it requires time and, most importantly, careful attention. Simone Weil puts it simply: “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity”; at its best, it is the “same thing as prayer . . . [as] it presupposes faith and love.”
Our students’ lives are often very complicated – sometimes unnecessarily so, but complicated nonetheless. And it should come as no surprise to us that what happens outside of the classroom often influences a student’s perception of their school and impacts their performance in the classroom. In fact, studies show that the quality of students’ relationships on campus – most especially with their teachers – has a tremendous bearing on their decision to leave or stay.
I speak from personal experience, as my daughter’s decision to remain at CBU – after a mostly tumultuous sophomore year – was, by her own admission, tied largely to her relationships with particular faculty members. These teachers – these neighbors, these friends – cared about her, listened to her, spoke the truth to her, encouraged her, walked alongside her, persisted with her, and loved her. They gave my precious daughter the gift of their attention in the midst of her own “dark night of the soul.”
Needless to say, my family will be forever indebted to these individuals who, in myriad ways, embodied what Weil had in mind when she suggested that, “The love of our neighbor in all its fullness simply means being able to say, ‘What are you going through?’” As human beings, we can tolerate or bear a lot of things; being ignored is most certainly not one of them. . . .
Peace like a river,