How do words work? It depends on who you ask. Socrates felt words were not worth studying, that only things themselves are. Words, he thought, are much like an artist’s imitation—they are a likeness but not the true thing. His explanation seems to imply some sort of lack or falsity.
Classical teachers become classical teachers because they have fallen in love with the Good, and, like all who are in love, can speak of nothing but the beloved. Their deep desire to capture, as in a prism, a beam of the Good, and to display its glory refracted through literature and music and art and philosophy and the maths and sciences, compels them into the classroom.
On occasion, students (or the teacher) simply hate a classic text. Despite noble efforts to the contrary, the teacher cannot bring them around to it. The last page is finished with a groan, the book slammed shut with disdain, and the class declares the work a waste of time. In such moments, the teacher must act and speak decisively. He cannot say, “Win some, lose some,” and go on to the next book. He must defend the value of reading the book.
When the class hates a text, the teacher ought to say something like this:
I am going to make one of those statements that my wife, Laura, often appreciates with a roll of the eyes: as much as it may ruin the song, it is empathy, not love, that makes the world go 'round.
Why do I say this? Here comes another one: if God is Love, and we cannot be God in His glorious essence and nature, then the energy of God—His Grace that flows out from our hearts which we can partake in—is empathy. Empathy then is the energy of Love.
My house was an absolute mess. Toys were scattered around the floors, doors to the outside stood open and flies came in to forage, grass and dirt littered the floor, and random cups, plates and shoes were all littered about. It was chaos. For several hours we had enjoyed the fellowship of company, of entertaining and eating, but now the day was drawing to a close and I felt restless. It was time to get things back into their place, to bring some order to the madness. It was time to see my kids bathed and in jammies, tucked away in cozy beds.
I. A student once asked me if I thought it was okay for high schoolers to fall in love. I replied, “As long as the love isn’t requited and the student tells no one about it, I don’t see a problem with a high schooler falling in love.” I may have added some other caveat about the love slowly tearing the lover apart on the inside. I was only half-joking.
Several years ago God, in his infinite wisdom and mercy, saw fit to smite the radio in my car, so I don't listen to the news very much anymore. I do occasionally tune in when driving our other vehicle (which has a working radio), but I find that I've lost the taste for it. I can't stomach it, and usually turn it off after only a short time, because I realize now that 'the news' isn't news at all.
“Oh, it is such a shame they won’t remember it!” my friend said.
My husband and I had just invested a lot of money (money that might have been better used to fix up our house or to replace our 15-year-old van) to take our family of six to Europe for ten days next summer. We will be returning— for the first time as a family—to Skopje, Macedonia, where we lived from 2008-2011, before spending a day in Amsterdam.
“Maybe,” I said, admittedly a little bothered by her comment but aware that I was having similar thoughts.
In the press and rush of planning, grading, lecturing, it becomes easy to think that the end of teaching is to plan, to grade, to lecture—and so to confuse the means of teaching with its ends: the getting of wisdom, the forming of virtue, the knowing of God, and the making of friends.
The good teacher tells his students what they must do. You must pray. You must repent. You must go to Church. You must give to the poor. You must be honest with yourself. Given rather common theological convictions of our day, the claim, “You must give to the poor” or “You must pray” can be confusing. When the teacher says, “You must give to the poor,” some students are apt to assume there is a silent “in order to be saved” attached to the end of the command. In conversations about Christian duties, students often assume teachers are teaching them how to be saved.