Teachers as Priests. The Classroom as Parish

People of Faith in Public Life – Education

Paul in his letter to the Philippians reminds us that our journey toward perfection is not complete. As we think about education this month, how can Christian educators approach the implications of this verse in the field of education? For Christians, education is not merely a means through which information is disseminated; rather it is an opportunity for students to encounter the love of God and the love of people.

However, today the challenge of religious fundamentalism casts a shadow of doubt on the possibility of encountering God and other people meaningfully. In fact, fundamentalism not only distances us from God, but also from other people. It magnifies differences and uses power and fear to create an environment of distrust and suspicion. And this can thwart progress.

The antidote to this mentality is Jesus’ command, to love our neighbours as ourselves. The command doesn’t undermine differences. All that it expects is to extend the same courtesy of love you show your group, to people from other groups as well. Christian education, I believe, can facilitate in bridging the gap between people from different backgrounds by bridging the gap between God and people.

While it is commonly the role of a priest, in the Church, to facilitate this double encounter; teachers in schools can also play the role of a priest and enable this positive encounter to occur in the classroom.

How can this be done?

Pedagogical experts have come up with 4 Cs that students need in order to face the challenges of our times. According to them every lesson must encourage students to Collaborate with others, Communicate sensitively and clearly, Critically think through issues and Creatively produce, organise and plan work. Like the fruit of the Spirit none of the Cs is to be understood independently. Instead, the 4Cs are a package – each enabling the other to work well. Together when these Cs are fleshed out in the context of a classroom there is scope for this double encounter with God and man.

This results in three outcomes. One, students step out of their preconceived ideas of the other and step into a divine space of love where they begin to see each other as meaningful contributors, problem solvers, and partners. Two, through these interactions the image of God begins to unfold in the classroom. The classroom becomes a parish for the love of God and neighbour to be experienced, especially when it shines through their anger, distrust and fear. Three, the by-product of these positive experiences is confidence. Confident to adapt to constant change because they have encountered the power of community – in the context of the Trinity this building up is ultimately toward perfection.

About

Daniel Thejus (Bobby)

Dr Daniel Thejus (Bobby) is a Speaker & Ministry Director for Life Focus Society. After completing his undergraduate course in Economics, Politics and Sociology, heeding the advice of a Jesuit novice, he completed his Masters in Philosophy earning a gold medal from Madras Christian College. His passion to understand the times led him to do a Ph.D. from Madras University where his research focused on Amartya Sen’s idea of Justice, Identity and Democracy. His interest in Theology peaked with an MLitt in Analytic and Exegetical Theology from St. Andrews University, Scotland. Apart from his research interests, he is interested in speaking about the interaction between eastern philosophies and theology. Bobby enjoys interacting with people in any setting. His interests range from popular culture, human flourishing, justice to philosophy Bobby is married to Ruhamah and they live with their two young children in Bengaluru.

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