Never underestimate the impact of the role model that teachers and school staff provide to students. I spent five years as a boarding student, and two people had a profound effect on my life and faith journey. My Grade 8 Science teacher talked to me quietly after I did poorly on my second test. He let me know that trying to fit in by not studying for the test was not the answer. He encouraged me to do my best. His quiet, understanding approach was just what I needed at that point in my life.
Even more profound was the effect of the cook on my life. He was always pleasant and polite, no matter how tough the comments from the students. It is impossible to provide food for 100 students just like mum does at home for the family. I had the job of opening the kitchen about 5 am to start getting breakfast ready. I had to go down to the cook’s flat and get the keys from the table just inside his room. Numerous times when I slipped in to get the keys, I found him asleep beside his bed on his knees. That quiet statement about the practice of his faith has left an abiding impression on my own spiritual journey even to this day.
One Christian teacher who wanted his son in our school rather than in his prestigious private school emphasized his desire for his son to have strong Christian role models. There are excellent, caring, empathetic practitioners in all schools. So what is the difference?
As Adventist teachers, we strive to be good practitioners and show empathy and nurture. But more than this, we live our personal Christianity in our conduct and relationships with students. We look at each student as a son or daughter of God. We encourage our students to have an “others” focus. We share just how important God is in our lives and encourage students to develop their own relationship with God. We try to permeate all we do with the “God-factor” to naturally reflect our own personal relationship with God. After all, Christianity is “caught” better than it is “taught”. Realistically, our students may not remember what we taught them, but they will remember the person who was the teacher. It is the values and relationships that are the enduring legacy.
Ken was my student for four years. He was bright, self-confident, popular and musical. Some 15 years after teaching him, I caught up with him in another state at church. He was a lawyer and the father of six children. I was stunned when in church that day, he made the comment, “I have modelled my life on what I saw from you. I am grateful for the great example you showed.” I had no idea that he had even been taking notice. That is the challenge of the teacher role model – anytime, anywhere we are impacting student lives through our words and actions as we follow Christ.
This article is the seventh in a series of ten articles on the unique characteristics of Adventist education. Another article in the series will be published every other Thursday. To view all articles in this series, along with other articles by this author, click here: Articles by David McClintock.
Note: Article written and posted in Australian English.