Today all of the Catholic schools island-wide gathered for our annual back-to-school Mass, which is always followed by a guest speaker. This year's guest, Father Ken Templin, was the best kind of speaker -- hilarious, vibrant, and inspirational, with a meaningful message: Nemo dat quod non habet.
That is, you cannot give what you have not got.
That may not seem like an inspirational message to some, but Father Ken really put into perspective the fact that teachers do not fuel themselves, time alone does not carry schools forward, and students do not grow and mature independently of communities. What drives us forward is faith.
There is a call that we must answer if we are to move forward and make a difference; the call demands that we recognize what our vocations ask of us. It involves giving what we can give, and giving of ourselves genuinely. I don't think this applies just to teaching. It is a gift, to be called to a particular vocation, and it is a gift we give in return when we say yes, over and over, in our words and actions, with our lives and livelihoods.
No written contract can adequately define what it means to be a teacher, or what this vocation really asks of those who say "yes" to it. However, Father Ken did share something that does make progress toward that end -- a retooled version of the Beatitudes:
Even a teacher in a non-parochial school, or anyone who teaches in any capacity, really, can find themselves in these words. Faith comes in many forms, and it need not be linked to religion. It is a different kind of knowing. I think we all teach from faith, if we are truly teachers. After all, take faith out of the equation, and what is left? Teaching becomes...a job...a paycheck (and you KNOW that no teacher does this for the money)...a routine. And if teaching is just regarded as a job, then what's the point? Where's the passion? Where is the hope and the investment and the vision? There can be no learning under those conditions, just as there can be no life without the heart, and no gift without a giver.