Freshman year of high school I discovered Robert Bolt’s enduring drama, “A Man for All Seasons.” It’s the story of Sir Thomas More, Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor who met his death when he refused to support Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. I was captivated by More’s story and while I can barely remember what I did last week, I vividly recall More’s words to Richard Rich.
As the play opens, Richard Rich, a young, venal man is pleading with More to give him a position that will bring with it a title, fine robes, and money. More, though, urges Rich to become a teacher. Insulted, Rich demands to know, “If I was, who would know?” More simply replies, “You, your students, your friends, God. Not a bad public, that.”
More’s words lodged deep within my psyche and I think it’s because of Robert Bolt’s More that I have taught in one capacity or another for most of my life. On May 11 my goddaughter Caitie graduates from LMU with a Masters of Education (summa cum laude). In light of Caitie’s graduation I’ve been reflecting on why I love teaching – and why I hope she loves teaching as much as I have.
The British novelist Mary Ann Evans, better known as George Eliot, asked the exquisite question, “What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for others?”
While we all have an arsenal of stories about teachers who succeeded in making our lives “more,” not less, difficult, most of us also have at least one grateful memory of a teacher who not only made life less difficult, she or he made us realize that life is worthy of giving our best.
I understand that in today’s society the act of teaching has been politicized and standardized and in some places even demonized. But what Thomas More knew in 1535 is as true today – that real teaching is about living life from a place of joy.
Teaching is not for the faint-of-heart. But when done from the fearless place of your talents and limitations, you inevitably experience the joy of helping another person live – from a place of inquisitiveness, desire, and courage.
I’m proud of Caitie, and even more, I’m in awe of Caitie. She was always a bright, astute girl and growing-up she was always very much “Caitie” (a simple euphemism for “rebellious”!) Like you and me, Caitie has / is a story – a story that never ceases to surprise me. But hers is a story that will allow her to grow into being a teacher grounded in integrity and joy. And those who know her – students, friends, and God – will be the better for her.
Hey, have you thanked a teacher lately?!
Please send your questions to JP Reynolds at: firstname.lastname@example.org