My mother had said once that I would be great as a teacher. The grading and bureaucracy turned me off to that idea. I preferred working one on one as mentor. Thus, my desire for spiritual direction grew toward my eventual joining the Oblates.
But God’s sense of humor kicked in. I found myself this semester teaching a small religious education class with another seminarian on Sundays. Every week, I was adjusting my teaching styles to match where the students were at. The students were great. Discipline wasn’t a problem.
Meanwhile, my fellow postulants were dealing with discipline issues. The priest overseeing us stressed knowing the procedures on discipline and instituting clearly defined classroom rules that have punishments. I thought we would be spared that headache.
Boy, was I wrong!
The dynamics of the class had changed in the past few weeks. There were disruptions, interruptions and distractions. I didn’t accomplish much from my lesson plan.
“Well, that was a disaster,” my teaching partner said after a recent class. “That’s how I described it.”
I preferred to call it as a hard slog. But it was difficult slog, indeed. Now, it was I going up to the director of religious education and seeking discipline advice.
“I can see that you’re nice guys,” she said. “But you have to assert yourselves.”
Another seminarian commented on the commute home that all of us needed in our own way to learn how to have authority in the classroom. Somehow, the saying “nice guys finish last” seemed apt at the moment. This must be how leadership grows, by being kicked down early. We all have to do things that make us unlikable. Being likable cannot be take priority over a disrupted classroom with students wanting to learn but being frustrated.
I suppose if I have to take my teaching lumps, I better take them now. My teaching partner and I will have to discuss how to institute a clear discipline policy in class. If any of you professional teachers can offer suggestions on classroom discipline, let me know. Thanks.