Sitting on the other side of the desk

By  Andrew Selvam, Youth Speak News
  • December 1, 2006
Less than six years ago, I was a Catholic high school student sitting in classes and hanging out with friends. Now I find myself sitting on the other side of the desk. As a teacher at St. Edmund Campion Secondary School, I not only have the job of learning new skills but extending those learning skills outward to my students. 
One of the most difficult aspects of being a Catholic educator is the shoes you have to fill. It's not easy following history's greatest teacher — Jesus Christ.

In the New Testament Jesus says, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you" (Jn 15:12). Therefore, as a Catholic educator it's not just about  student instruction, but a ministry that serves others. I think Catholic education is twofold: inspiring faith and a sense of sacramentality. 

Amidst a low standard of faith in students and sometimes even educators, it is more essential for me to "do the faith" instead of just "having the faith." It means putting my faith into dynamic action — being there for a student when no one else is and encouraging them when they think success is unreachable. It's the reason I've always looked at the profession with a gleaming eye, so that one day I may see the gleaming eye of one of my students when they graduate and move on to greater things.

John says we should not love and live life in word and speech, but in truth and action (Jn 3:18). I aim to do this when I use my God-given gifts in the classroom, in clubs and collegiality with other teachers.

I'm also a firm believer in a sense of sacramentality, both in the school environment and in the curriculum. Much like in baptism, I am named, called and chosen to create a positive and inclusive environment in the school and classroom. Much like in Confirmation, I try to affirm my duty to share my talents and invite others to do the same.

I am responsible for teaching my students how to receive the fruits of the sacraments. As a science teacher, it's my duty to awaken the curriculum to become something fully alive in Christ for my students. And I have, with God's help, recently engaged my biology classes in a discussion about the sanctity of human life after showing them an awareness video on abortion created by Toronto's Right to Life Association.

My school principal told me that teaching is a vocation that involves entering in and working for the kingdom. Our school may be poor socio-economically, but it's rich in community. It may be lacking social structure, but it is rich in social justice.

St. Edmund Campion, the patron of my school, urges us to preach the Gospel, to speak out against injustice and to face all challenges without fear. I try to do that every day when we pray before class.

As a student, I attended a school named after St. Thomas Aquinas, who said, "Love takes up where knowledge leaves off." It speaks volumes to students and teachers not to remain behind a closed book, but to open it with hearts of love and minds used for the greater good so we can spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.

(Selvam, 24, teaches at St. Edmund Campion Secondary School in Brampton, Ont.)

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