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Father Muench Says...

Teachers make the world a better place

Sept. 11, 2013

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

As I write this, I am interrupting, for a time, my preparation for a talk I will be giving to the teachers at Seton Catholic, Plattsburgh. 

The principal at Seton is my friend, Cathy Russell. I’ve known her a long time – in fact, back in her high school days at IHC in Watertown, she was in my Chemistry class.  Anyway, she suggested that I speak to her teachers at the beginning of this school year.

I was surprised to be asked since I haven’t been in the classroom in many years.  However, I knew that I did want to thank them for deciding to be teachers.  As high school teachers they have a hand in making my world a better place.  They have chosen to help educate young people – and among these young people will come those who make my world a better place.  Teachers are truly heroes for me.

I have been searching around for some help in coming up with some good “stuff” to share with these teachers.  One of those I consulted was my nephew, Paul, a public school teacher at Fayetteville-Manlius High School in suburban Syracuse.  He is an excellent teacher and I know that he has often made presentations to student teachers.

Last week, I went out with his family at a local restaurant and asked him to share with me some of his ideas.  It didn’t take him long to get cranked up – and suddenly I had lots of things to share with others.  I had to borrow the waitress’ pen and filled several napkins.

I was pleasantly surprised when he began by saying, “Jesus” – Jesus was a teacher.  All teachers have chosen a profession in which Jesus was a part – and so teachers belong to a sacred and blessed group. Jesus is one of them.

Each teacher’s goals are and should be the same as those of Our Savior, Jesus – to make the world a better place through educating and forming our young people.  Jesus wanted to show us all the way to become holier – to become more reliable and mature – to become saints.  Yes, this must be one of the goals of all teachers.  As followers of Jesus, we believe that he will walk with us and guide all teachers as they work toward these goals.

My nephew, Paul, suggested that a good starting point is to remember a teacher that had truly influenced and inspired us.  For any teacher, this can present an inspiration each day as he or she approaches the class room – to emulate the spirit that this teacher enflamed in their life – to emulate, not imitate.  Hopefully, this teacher can inspire as they were inspired. 

Paul mentioned a goal for each teacher – a rather high goal, I must admit – that their class this day will be the best class these students experience that day – nothing less.   Again, seeking the help of the Lord, this is possible  and the daily challenge for any good teacher.

Let me share just a bit more. He mentioned his ideas in dealing with what they would call difficult students – the problem students – not just the discipline problems but also those students who just seem to block out the teachers efforts to reach them. 

He suggested these ideas – “Love them most, when they deserve it least” – “loud with praise, quiet with criticism” and “catch him/her doing something right.”  Great ideas for a teacher – equally great for parents to imitate.

The challenge our teachers face these days is great yet, they truly make a difference in this world.  When teachers make their students the best young people in the world – when they make their classes the best – they are making my  world and yours a better place. 

So today, I want to thank all of you teachers – all of you dedicated teachers – you are so important to me and my world.  I pray for you every day.

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