Friday, September 14, 2012

Teaching and Trust

One of the things that is sometimes forgotten in the general mix of school life is the fact that education is largely a matter of partnership and trust. A school is a bevy of relationships, conversations, personalities, and backgrounds. Nothing happens in isolation. There is a dynamic of interaction on a school campus that is different from any other environment. Sometimes it works well, and sometimes it does not.

One of the factors that influences that dynamic is this business of trust. Students trust that teachers know their material. Teachers trust that students wish to learn. Parents trust that the school is set up in such a way that facilitates real growth and development, both in terms of academics and in terms of personal character. Besides these, there are many other areas in a school where there is direct or indirect trust factor (library, maintenance, security, technology, canteen, coaching, etc.).

But trust does not happen automatically. Attention much be paid. At certain times and places, one much be intentional about recognizing it, about fostering it, and about enhancing it. Like any relationship between persons, things may not be taken for granted. Serious consequences ensue.

In a place such as SJI-International, thousands of relationships buzz around like so many bees, and trust is established, strengthened, questioned, broken, regained, and revived time and again. They are all part of what it means to be a school, a place where learning takes place on many levels, both intimate and remote. If you have heard of the expression “The fog of war” to describe the untamed complexity of the battlefield, you may also appreciate some version of that reality which exists in a untamed complexity of an active school setting. Everything cannot be known or predicted. What we can do is pay attention to the important pieces and do all we can to ensure that they are done well.

St. John Baptist de La Salle was known for two frequent expressions. One of them was “God be blessed.” He said this whenever something significant happened, even if it was challenging or difficult. His trust in God was paramount and constant. The other expression was a question that showed up in many of his letters: “Does the school run well?” Here I believe he was confirming his trust in those who operated the schools, the Brothers at that time, and the fact that they needed to pay attention to the essentials that make for a good school. It’s a good combination.

I hope and trust that we continue to do the same.