19 February, Saturday — On Teaching

Saturday of Week 6 in Ordinary Time

Jas 3:1-10
Mk 9:2-13

Only a few of you…should be teachers, bearing in mind that those of us who teach can expect a stricter judgement.

In my job, I am privileged to work alongside learned educators and seasoned industry professionals tasked to educate, train and mentor young adults who are pursuing their dreams of a successful career in engineering, infocomm technology, allied healthcare, hospitality, robotics/AI and even culinary arts. Yet, after 12 years, I am still privy to the occasional query about the quality of our faculty. This, despite the fact that we have produced thousands of graduates who are gainfully employed in the industry of their choice. I don’t envy my learned colleagues, who truly have it tough, because they are judged by all manner of ‘expert opinion’ — industry practitioners, counterparts in other universities, parents, and even administrators in government agencies who have to convince companies about the value of our product.

Then there is my vocal coach — another ‘learned’ man and undoubtedly an expert in his field (he possesses a degree in sacred music from the US). Among all the teachers I have had in my lifetime, R truly is someone I can call ‘sensei’ (apart from my brief spell learning aikido). He doesn’t just teach me how to sing. He imparts wisdom beyond what is in the syllabus and enriches our sessions with knowledge and insights that come from decades of experience. He invests his entire heart and soul into ensuring that I am rewarded with a new nugget each time we meet.

For me, teaching as a livelihood and being called to teach yields different outcomes. Unfortunately, the former tends to end up succumbing to the stresses of dealing with demanding parents and the bureaucracy inherent in most systems; as evidenced by the growing number of reported cases of educators/mentors who have ‘cracked’ and been censured, or even jailed, for varying reasons. As St James alluded to in today’s first reading, they were all judged and invariably ‘held to a higher standard’.    

Brothers and sisters, many of us have been blessed with teachers who were kind, generous, forgiving, humble, open, loving — whether in the classroom, in church, even at work. These are the few who have been called…just as how Christ called His early disciples. These are the ones who don’t hanker after adulation or awards; the ones who bless us with their tongues and use their words to encourage, enable and empower. How then, are they ‘judged’? Could it be that it is as simple as looking at the fruits they have produced, and whether these in turn have borne other good fruits? Or could it be that just the mention of their name brings forth all manner of praise and affirmation from those who have benefitted from their wisdom and mentoring? When I call to mind those who have influenced me so deeply, I can only be envious of the Twelve who spent all that time under the tutelage of the ultimate teacher — Jesus Christ.

If you are in a position of influence, especially to shape/mould a young life, be thankful that you have been called to leave a lasting legacy that could last for generations.         

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Abba Father, you sent us the ultimate Teacher in Jesus Christ, your Son. Fill us with the spirit of humility that is so lacking in many leaders today, so that we can be open to your promptings and speak your words of wisdom to those who look to us.  

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the gift of our teachers. We ask that you continue to bless them with your graces.

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