Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Thank a teacher

This morning I joined with Fr. Roy Doxsey my neighbouring colleague in leading Tredegarville School's Eucharist for school leavers; i.e. children in class six who will be going to secondary school in September. Several dozen parents turned out, and the school leavers gave a presentation instead of the usual homily, in which they shared in remembering their best times in school and offering a litany of thanksgiving lifting up every aspect of school life to God in appreciation. At one moment they broke into a well coordinated 'street dance' and sang to a funky rhythm track, and few few adventurous souls made little solo excursions into break-dancing.

It was inspiring to watch, as there was over thirty of them crammed into the confined space between the altar and the first row of infants sitting on the floor. Nobody pushed or jostled. Nobody got trod on. It showed just how much of a group they'd become, with all their varying abilities, cultural, social and religious backgrounds. Most of the staff and half a dozen parents made their communion, and at the end, each leaver was given a small olive wood cross, made in Bethlehem, apart from the one Muslim girl in the class who received something special in a large envelope instead.

Finally, year five children made an arch of raised arms leading to the door of the assembly hall, through which all the leavers marched, while the school sang 'Farewell Class six' to the tune of Shalom Haverim'. They leave for the Great Unknown of High School knowing that they are loved and appreciated.

I came away feeling very proud to be associated with a church school with a history of being at the community front-line in welcoming newcomers to the city, going back nearly a century. Teachers in secondary schools around the city sometimes remark that they can recognise a church school educated child by observing their attitude and general behaviour. They are used to being co-operative, helpful, polite and easy to get on with, despite the fact that some of them have had tough experiences through their first stage of childhood, with family instability, parental unemployment, accidents, illness, loss of loved ones. I like the advertisement which says 'If you can read this, thank a teacher.' You could do a similar ad. saying; 'If you have self-respect, confidence, ability to get on with others and work hard, thank a teacher.' These days many parents who want to instil those values in their kids find they rely greatly on the support teachers give them in a social climate which seems on times far from sympathetic to these aims.

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