Monday, April 11, 2016

New Evangelizers Post: The Teacher Trap

I have a new article up at  

“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” James 3:1

I have been a teacher for many years and these words still haunt me. Being a teacher is a beautiful vocation that is at times fulfilling and frustrating. There are moments of great joy and heartbreak. But I believe this to be true of any vocation to which God calls us.

A friend of mine recently asked if I thought of teaching as more than just a job. I said “yes,” because unlike many other jobs (and I do not mean this in any way to denigrate the importance of those other jobs), the job of a teacher is to make an impression in the soul of the student.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I am not confronted with my own unworthiness to be a teacher. If the job of a teacher is to make impressions in souls, how can I make a good impression if I myself am broken? A signet ring leaves an impression in on a fresh dab of wax. But if the seal on the ring is broken, the impression will be broken as well.

I am upfront with my students when I tell them that I am the biggest sinner in the classroom. Every day I am more and more in need of God’s mercy. And yet even with this in mind it is so easy to fall into the teacher trap.

What is the teacher trap?

CS Lewis once wrote about judging others: “Abstain from all thinking about other people’s faults, unless your duties as a teacher or parent make it necessary to think about them.” (God in the Dock pg. 154) In our everyday interactions with our peers, Lewis told us to stay away from thinking of their faults. It is so easy to focus on what annoys you about your neighbors and co-workers. Lewis makes clear that since you no better than they are that we are to avoid dwelling on their faults.

But teachers and parents must dwell on the faults of their children and their students. A parent or teacher who is blind to the faults of their charges is doing a disservice to those charges. The purpose of focusing on those faults is so that you can give proper instruction to those children on how they can overcome those faults.

The teacher trap occurs when you focus on those faults, not to help the child, but to judge them.

You can read the entire article here.

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