Besides being wise, the Teacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs. — Ecclesiastes 12.9
In the hilarious television program Mr. D., the titular character expounds a basic philosophy about teaching. “Mark the smart kid’s exam first and use it as an answer key.” He explains in another episode about the mentoring of practicum students — basically, throw them into the deep end and take a day off. In his standup routine he once told a group of teachers, “I saw a seminar recently, ‘Engaging Students in the 21st century.’ It was cancelled. You can’t engage them anymore! Teachers saying, ‘I’m not going to that! That’s impossible.’ ”
Needless to say, Mr. D. is not actually a role model for us as teachers, though in the way of great parody, he often builds on real situations to make his humour more identifiable. While all of us no doubt prepare diligently for each class, it’s true to say that the workload for teachers is at times overwhelming. And teaching isn’t just about the material anyway. As teachers everywhere understand — it’s how you present information, and how you connect to your students, that can be the difference between failure and success. All this is compounded by the different learning needs and styles of the students themselves. Clarity for one individual can be gobbledygook to another.
For all of these reasons, I think teaching is one of the toughest gigs on the planet. And yet, the world over, masochists keep presenting themselves to take on this challenge. Why? I truly believe that most individuals turn to this remarkable profession because they want to make a difference in the lives of others. Teaching, in the context of a faith tradition, can be even harder. We live in a secular society, and the dynamic messaging of today’s technology, and the contradictory information that flows to our children, is overwhelming.
The Calgary Catholic Education Foundation is one organization that understands the challenge for both teachers and students. Founded in 2008, CCEF is a charitable organization that raises funds for schools in need — innovative educational experiences, technology, literacy projects, and educational environments — to ensure that no child is left behind. And once a year, on Catholic Education Sunday, the organization rallies to raise funds through parishes and the community to help support educational opportunities and initiatives that are otherwise not funded.
I’m proud to say that this year our bachelor of education students will be playing an active role in helping to promote the foundation’s objectives, and indeed that one of our education students, Vanessa Bitoni, is on CCEF’s board of directors. Together I am sure that we will work together to ensure that this is one of the most successful years to date for CCEF.
Our job is not just to educate, but also to do this with passion, so that we can help students find theirs. Aristotle once said, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” To which I think we can all say: Amen!
Turcotte is president of St. Mary’s University in Calgary.