Many years ago, a colleague passed on to me the following paraphrase of 1 Corinthians chapter 13 – which she had received in turn from a school Principal at a conference they were attending.
Of course, the original Bible passage is one with which most of us would be very familiar; but it’s this version that has regularly struck a chord with me (and, I hope, many of the fellow staff members with whom I’ve shared it over the years) in the realities of our school world:
Though I may speak with authority in an Assembly or teach with skill in the classrooms;
though I may lecture brilliantly on a wide variety of educational subjects;
though I may be quoted in a news article on education or write a best-selling textbook on my subject;
if I have no love for my pupils, it is not enough.
If I have a first class Honours degree, a Diploma in education or a Distinction in educational subjects in my tertiary course;
if I am in close touch with the latest trends in education and heartily approve the latest ideas and pedagogy;
but have no love for my pupils and colleagues, it is still not enough.
Love makes a teacher very patient & kind.
A teacher who loves their pupils is never sarcastic, never rude, never bears a grudge, is never unfair.
A teacher’s love never ends. Where there are theories of education, they will be superseded; where teaching techniques, they will become out of date. For our present ideas on education are very partial, and that which is only partial will vanish when education is seen in its wholeness.
There are three things in education that endure: faith in the ultimate value of education; hope in the future of education; and the love of teachers for those they educate. But the greatest of these is the teacher’s love.
The knowledge and expertise we acquire do matter; but there’s something that matters even more.
We can be the best, most experienced (fill in your own role description at your School) we can be; but, this chapter says, without love it is empty achievement. I can be the godliest, most spiritually knowledgeable Chaplain an Anglican School has ever seen – but if I don’t have love, the Bible says, it’s all nothing; a mere show of words and actions, as insubstantial (and ineffective) as an umbrella made out of Kleenex tissues.
Our chief educational skill – our chief pastoral skill – that teaches our students, our colleagues, and all within our school communities, as well as underpinning the ministry we do; is that of LOVE.
It’s love that gives us the commitment and attitude of being patient and kind – to avoid the actions and the words that can tear down someone else – to rejoice in the truth, keep no record of wrongs, always protect & trust & hope & persevere, and all the other qualities described in verses 4-7 of 1 Corinthians chapter 13.
This love never ends, because it continues through any changes in technology, timetables and teaching methods; through all the good days and bad days; through the relationships that we have with the students (and, yes, the colleagues) whom we find easier – and harder – to love…
How can we possibly love like this?
The answer, of course – to which I find myself needing to be drawn, time and again – is that you and I are already loved by God, in this same manner.
As the Bible says elsewhere, ‘We love because He first loved us.’
And so our love for each other and our students sees them as dearly loved by God – their God, and ours.
These are lessons in love that I’ve learned for many years; but which, I keep being reminded, I need to know afresh each day in my service of the God of love.