When I look back at my own school experience, I am overwhelmed by the fear that I can still feel. I was afraid of many things: the teachers and staff, the older girls, being alone without my parents and siblings, the dark and even traveling on my own. I was sent to boarding school at the age of nine. We were about two hundred girls in the school, many from missionary families. I counted myself lucky as I saw my parents every holidays and I had a comparatively short plane journey to Germany to see them. We react to fear differently. The fear of rejection which I felt every day coupled with a fear of the unknown was a potent mix. I did not know how the days would end and I had no reassurance that things would be any different. I became rebellious and unmanageable. I remember one member of staff being kind to me.
One day, I was determined to run away and as I was setting out, I met this particular teacher on the stairs. We talked for a long time and she persuaded me to turn back and try again. She listened to me and wanted to know what had upset me. Her attitude was one of zero condemnation. This woman was my class teacher and I flourished academically that year as I felt accepted by her and encouraged despite the real difficulties which I was having with authority and structure. I look back on that classroom experience with pleasure. On reflection, she must have had her own share of difficulties, and still, she was able to communicate a holy love towards me which took away my fear and enabled me to thrive in my studies. The Bible tells us that
” There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear; because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:18
Over the years, my students have laboured under their own sets of fears. Many times, a breakthrough in communication with a young person has been as a result of what is called the ‘incarnational’ approach. A child will respond to the older person, who is able to ‘get down on the floor with them’ and live their school life alongside them. Taking the time to live the learning experience with a young person means that they do not have to do it alone; they do not have to be afraid. This is the walk of faith as a Christian teacher; to depend on God to pour out his perfect love through us so that we may be instrumental in casting out fear in our students.
Our hope is that we will be able to communicate that holy love. It is important to question our motivations as teachers. What is the driving force behind our teaching relationships? Perhaps there is more ego there than we would like to admit to! How do we become more incarnational, and by definition, less self absorbed as teachers?
By Maryan Piano
Teacher from the UK who is currently working towards a PhD in Holistic Child and Youth Development at Asia Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary in Manila, The Philippines.