Twelve Virtues of a Good Teacher

Book cover: 'Twelve Virtues of a Good Teacher'
Luke M. Grande, F.S.C.
Roman Catholic Books
Sewn Hardcover
Number of pages: 
160 pages

Based on twelve virtues that St. John Baptist de La Salle, patron saint of teachers, thought important for teachers to know, Twelve Virtues of a Good Teacher is a reprint from 1962 that elaborates on these virtues. St. John Baptist de La Salle was an educational reformer and founder of the Brothers of Christian Schools in France during the 17th Century.

Although it is easy to understand, it is a book to read, digest, and reflect upon over and over again. In fact, it is a book that you would like to highlight every couple of pages, because of the pearls of wisdom it provokes the reader to meditate on. Even though the book is primarily written for teachers and many of the examples are addressed specifically for teachers, there is much that could be applied to parenting, since parents are the primary educators of their children, whether or not they choose to homeschool them.

When we are in the midst of the school year or even as we are planning the coming school year, it is easy for us to focus on the curriculum. Much of education is really character formation. It is the setting of the children's habits for a lifetime. What is a virtue? . . ."Virtue is a good habit"(46). What kind of virtues do we want our children to strive for? We can begin by setting an example for our children by striving to live the twelve virtues discussed in this book. By living them on a daily basis, we will be inculcating in our children habits that will last them a lifetime.

Too often as parents, we think, "if only" this child was more cheerful, patient, kind, etc., life would be so much simpler. It is much easier to focus on the faults of the child or the problem and forget to analyze our response to the child or the situation. This book is a wake up call to the teacher to consider his or her role in the education of the child. What is my example to my students?

By reading the list of virtues covered in this book (wisdom, prudence, piety, zeal, generosity, justice, kindness, firmness, humility, patience, seriousness, and silence), we may think, "What's the big deal? Is this just another self-help book? I already know those things." But do we really? And more importantly, do we live them?

This book asks the Catholic teacher to pause and carefully consider, "Do I live these virtues?" As Catholics, our viewpoint as teachers and parents should be radically different. We need to meditate on each one of these virtues. For example, "Wisdom sees the integrity of the Divine Plan; by its light the truly wise man sees--at least in broad outline--the relationship of one truth to another, the beginning and the end of Creation, one principle to another"(26). The teacher is asked "to see with the eyes of God"(26) and not the eyes of man. Another quote for the reader to contemplate is "Above all, wisdom enables a teacher to discern the part played by his own efforts in the scheme of Divine Providence, his high calling as a co-operator with God in His plans for men"(27).

In our striving for academic excellence, as parent-teachers with high and noble goals, we may sometimes put our pride before the needs of the child. In discussing the virtue of prudence, the author comments, "There is a time for the teaching of Dostoevski or calculus, but the prudent man reflects long and weighs the pros and cons carefully before, if ever, he attempts to teach them in a sophomore high-school class"(43).

When discussing the virtue of piety, the author reminds us that our example is of paramount importance. He quotes St. La Salle, "'Let us practice before their eyes what we are trying to teach them. We will make a greater impression on them by a wise and modest conduct than by a multitude of words'"(53). The author reminds the reader that "In a thousand ways he reveals to his students every day the depth and reality of his devotion to God"(53).

These are but a few of the pearls of wisdom to arouse the reader to examine her role as teacher in the impressionable lives of her students. As teachers and parents, we are learning right along beside our students. We are learning to strive to live the life of a saint. This is a difficult goal. In a world that offers many distractions, this book refocuses our attention on the higher things. It offers advice and encouragement to be a better teacher, and in a round about way, to be a better parent.

In closing, let us ponder one last thought. "It is kindness, the virtue which flows from the heart and leads the teacher to think of and to act toward the students as Christ would, that is of paramount importance for him, if he is to effect the greatest good in his students" (95). . . ."acts of kindness spring from love, in imitation of the acts of a loving Christ who said, 'Love one another, as I have loved you'(John 13:34)"(95).

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