Loving the more difficult students

Pope Francis referred to teaching as a beautiful profession, one that is not restricted to the time spent in the classroom

Ever since Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected Pope, I have closely followed his speeches and writings. We have much to learn from Pope Francis. Earlier this month, the Pope had an audience with an association of teachers, administrators and educators. He spoke on his role as a formal educator, reminiscing on his own days in the classroom and indeed Pope Francis insisted that he was addressing his audience as a teacher and as his colleagues.

Pope Francis referred to teaching as a beautiful profession, one that is not restricted to the time spent in the classroom, but also the time spent in preparation and the time that each teacher spends on each individual student. Teaching is also a profession with great responsibilities.

“Teaching is a serious commitment that only a mature and balanced personality can take on. Such a commitment can be intimidating, but remember that no teacher is ever alone: They always share their work with other colleagues and the entire educational community to which they belong,” the Pope said.

Over the years, teachers and indeed all educators have helped their respective country grow. Teachers have helped reform the school and they have especially contributed to educate generations of young people.

Speaking about the association’s tasks, Pope Francis said that these include the call to enlighten and motivate a just idea of the school. “The school is certainly composed of a valid and qualified education, but also of human relations, which for us are welcoming and benevolent relations, to be offered indiscriminately to all.

“Indeed, the duty of a good teacher – all the more for a Christian teacher – is to love his or her more difficult, weaker, more disadvantaged students with greater intensity. I ask you to love ‘difficult’ students more… those who do not want to study, those who find themselves in difficult conditions, the disabled and foreigners, who today pose a great challenge for schools.

“Teachers should engage in the peripheries of the school which cannot be abandoned to marginalisation, exclusion, ignorance, crime. In a society that struggles to find points of reference, young people need a positive reference point in their school. The school can be this or become this only if it has teachers capable of giving meaning to the school, to study and culture, without reducing everything to the mere transmission of technical knowledge. Instead they must aim to build an educational relationship with each student, who must feel welcomed and loved for what he or she is, with all of their limitations and potential. In this direction, your task is now more necessary than ever,” Pope Bergoglio said.

Teachers have a duty to update teaching skills and to transmit knowledge and values. Pope Francis stressed that teaching is not just a job – “it is a relationship in which each teacher must feel fully involved as a person, to give meaning to the educational task towards their students”, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis has strong ties to teaching and education. He started out teaching high school literature and psychology and later served as a rector of a major seminary in Buenos Aires. He uses the experience and insight that have inspired him to always encourage educators and teachers.

“You must not teach just content, but the values and customs of life. A computer can teach content. Instead there are three things that you must transmit: how to love, how to understand which values and customs create harmony in society.  For that we need good teachers!!”