When a Teacher is Far More Than a Teacher

Summer is a magical season for students and educators: they largely get to unplug from what philosophers call “the workaday world,” and they often get to spend some time pursuing their own individual passions, things such as sports camps, book clubs, and college and independent study courses.

Teachers at The Ambrose School, however, are a bit different. There is an important aspect of the calling of a teacher at The Ambrose School that doesn’t recognize summer break: the calling to disciple students in a Christ-centered life. Even when classes are not in session, our teachers embrace this lofty calling.

For example, I received an email from a parent earlier this summer. I don’t get many parent emails in early July, so when I did, I must admit that I panicked just a little. Those few emails I do get in July are not typically positive.

The story in this email was so very different. This family has an adult daughter moving out of the house, and their younger daughter was excited to inherit her room. The younger daughter loves French style and all things Paris, and she was sad that she didn’t have any French décor for her soon-to-be new room. She mentioned this in passing to one of our teachers, who saw an opportunity to do something beautiful.

ParisEarlier this month – in the very heart of summer when so many educators are indulging their own interests – our teacher stopped by her student’s house to drop off a piece of original artwork for her wall. The teacher, who is a skilled artist, spent time during her own summer break to paint a beautiful oil painting of the Eiffel Tower. It was a free gift, given out of love and self-sacrifice, and not in the pursuit of tenure or the next tier on a pay scale. In fact, had the parent not emailed me to tell me, I never would have known!

Proverbs 22:6 reads, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” The process of training entails so many things, but two of the more important are relationship and modeling. This particular story is a powerful example where the teacher excelled at both those things. Through the sacrifice of her time and attention, a deep relationship is being built with her student; undoubtedly, when the teacher needs to correct or impart wisdom to her student in the future, she’ll find a willing and attentive ear! By modeling caritas, the love of Christ that is selfless and kind, our teacher gave her student a clear image, and inspiration to go with it, of what it looks like to fulfill Jesus’s commandment “to love [others] as yourself.”

At a classical Christian school like ours, teachers are more than just teachers.

Such as These

Parenting is hard. I know this truth as well as anyone. I get daily lessons on how far I have to go to improve as a parent.

There are benefits to working where my kids are, but there are also challenges. Much like the cobbler’s wife goes longest without shoes, my own kids go longest without my attention at school. If you’ve spent any time at all on our campus, you’ve likely seen the Browne girls sitting by themselves in the hallway waiting for Dad to finish with a meeting.

Such was the case the week after classes ended this year. I was busy meeting with teachers one on one for year-end reviews, and my girls were on their own. My oldest had volleyball camp, and she was supposed to bring my youngest daughter, Sara, over with her to meet me. I had a meeting ending at the same time, so I told my sweet little Sara to wait for me in the gym with the volleyball campers.

Of course, my meetings ran late: 5 minutes turned into 10, and 10 minutes turned into 30, and 30 minutes turned into 60 (such is the life of a school administrator!) When the meetings finally ended, I rushed out of my office to track down poor Sara, who had to wait for me in the gym by herself for over an hour. I was sickened at the thought.

Only I entered the gym to find Sara was not lonely and by herself. The teens who were running the camp – one an alumni who just finished up her freshman year of college, and the other a senior and co-captain of the volleyball team – had seen Sara by herself, and had acted: they had included her in their camp with girls much older than her, and were giving her odd jobs to help the campers run through their drills. Sara, having been included by the “cool teen girls,” was grinning ear to ear when I found her.

Mark 10:14-15 reads in part, “[Jesus] said to them, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.’” One of my favorite things about being part of a K-12 school community are the many positive interactions I see daily between our teens and Grammar School kids. Teenagers who lay down their lives in little ways to serve the little children in our school change lives. In 20 years, I doubt Sara will remember the 7 kings of Rome, but I have no doubt she will remember the day those two teenage girls went out of their way to include her so she didn’t feel alone.

Kingdom work was done that day, and I, fallible father that I am, was largely the recipient. Soli Deo Gloria