In week that has been dominated by Twitter discussion on 'obedience' (Is it good? Is it desirable? Is it how you rule your class?), I was reminded today of an exercise I have done numerous times with numerous classes. It focus' around one of the most popular readings about love found in the Bible, indeed even I had it at my own wedding!
It is worth noting that St Paul was not writing about romantic love. I remember very little of my Biblical Greek (mainly as I got kicked off the course and moved to NT studies), but in the original translation of this passage the word ἀγάπη (agape) is used; a far better translation of this is 'charity'. This makes complete sense as Paul was writing to the people of Corinth, explaining how to live as a loving, charitable Christian community.
I work in a Catholic school, we aim to very much be a Christian community. As such, it makes sense that this could be our guide:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
This is all very nice, but the challenge comes when we instead change the word Love to 'A Student':
A student is patient,
A student is kind.
A student does not envy,
A student does not boast,
A student is not proud.
A student does not dishonor others,
A student is not self-seeking,
A student is not easily angered,
A student keeps no record of wrongs.
A student does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
A student always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
A student never fails.
Is this the student we recognise sat in our classroom? Maybe some of them, some of the time. When completing this activity in the past, it has always brought up a good discussion about pride - good or not?
The next challenge is to replace 'A Student' with 'The Teacher'. It's also interesting to look at another translation. I've used 'The Message' here (<link>), I wouldn't use this for scholarly articles, but uses a student friendly language:
The teacher never gives up.
The teacher cares more for others than for self.
The teacher doesn't want what it doesn't have.
(Except maybe the keys to the stationary cupboard, or a class set of iPads...)
The teacher doesn't strut,
The teacher doesn't have a big head,
The teacher doesn't force himself/herself on others,
The teacher isn't always “me first,”
The teacher doesn't fly off the handle,
The teacher doesn't keep score of the sins of others (colleagues and students!),
The teacher doesn't revel when others grovel,
The teacher takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
The teacher puts up with anything (well certainly a lot!)
[The teacher trusts God always, (for the theists)]
The teacher always looks for the best,
The teacher never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Is that you?