“Teaching must just be so rewarding.”
“You never know the impact you have. I heard a story about one student who ….”
“I love Dead Poets Society!”
The perspectives other people have of teaching are intriguing. Most recognize that it does not pay much, involves long hours, and is generally difficult. When I talk about my job with friends who don’t teach, I often receive some sentiment similar to the quotes above. They, along with others, have this perception that being a teacher is punctuated by ultra-fulfilling highs and immensely difficult lows.
As is the case with every job, you can’t really understand the day-to-day life of a teacher without living it. Those highs and lows don’t come every day, and often they don’t even come every week. And while there’s no such thing as a boring day, most days are filled with the ordinary (by teaching standards, anyway). I have come to see those patterns of the ordinary: students grumbling when they’re assigned homework, or conversations about the humidity with faculty members, or dozens of grades that need to be put in the grade book; these, among many others, are things that I have come to expect in the day to day. There are not often those watershed moments with students that are often portrayed in movies – in fact, not a single student has stood up on their desk in my class yet.
My faith, too, is filled with the seemingly ordinary. The Angelus that we pray every morning as a school, community prayer, or prayers before bed are all routine things that fill the day. Reflecting on the life of Christ, and especially His role as Teacher, I can get swept up in the gloriousness of the stories found in the Gospels: picturing Him surrounded my multitudes, thousands of lives being changed by His teaching, it seems to stand in stark contrast to the teaching that I am attempting to do each day.
The hidden life of Jesus has always been of interest to me. The years between the finding of Jesus in the temple teaching and the beginning of his public ministry are not talked about in the Gospels. It is not difficult to let the imagination fill in the blanks, picturing Jesus working and learning with Joseph, helping Mary around the house, praying before meals with them both. All of these are “ordinary” things lived out by extraordinary people, the most extraordinary people, in fact.
The hopes I have for the sanctity of my students, for their destiny in Heaven, does not and cannot rely on grandiose speeches. The path begins and is sustained in the ordinary, the day to day. In this, too, we imitate Christ. This year, a few other teachers and students at Archbishop Shaw High School have been praying morning prayer each day in our chapel before school begins. This routine has quickly become one of the highlights of my day, something that I look forward to on the drive to school. In the ordinary, we have found a way to follow Christ, praying with the Psalms, just as He did.
Christ the Teacher, inspire us and guide us in the day to day, and may Mary, help of Christians, pray for us.