During a “gap year” in which I was discerning the direction to go with my studies, I served as a volunteer with Head Start. It’s there that I met Mrs. Cranmer and learned how teaching can be both a ministry and a vocation. There is no question that she was called to be a teacher. Her natural ability to talk to little children and nudge them along in their learning was a gift she was truly meant to share. Beyond excelling at the art of developing creative learning experiences, she also treated each child with love and respect. Since many of them came from impoverished homes, she was ever aware of their varying needs and ministered to them with tenderness and endless patience. As such, she built a safe haven for learning and for play. My decision to return to school to pursue a degree in education was largely influenced by Mrs. Cranmer.
The late Henri Nouwen described the minister as one with transparent vision. This is an ability to see beyond what lies on the surface. Teachers with transparent vision see students as more than a class. Like Mrs. Cranmer they recognize individual talents and traits. They remain sensitive to underlying wounds and worries that might trigger less-than-desirable behavior. They have the ability to see with the eyes of Christ. It’s a vision grounded in compassion and caring.
Teaching entails a long-haul view of one’s role. This, in turn, requires stamina, patience, and a deep capacity for hope. Rambunctious students, anxious parents, nonstop attention to details, and a talent for making plans while also staying flexible are just some of the elements that make teaching such a rich challenge. Ask any dedicated teacher and they will tell you that it is much more than a job.; it is a vocation. Parker Palmer, a gifted educator and writer, notes that a vocation isn’t a goal to be pursued, but a calling to be heard. I am ever so grateful for all of those teachers who, like Mrs. Cranmer, listened to that call.
…For teachers and principals. Find resources for Catholic Schools Week to share with your students and families.
Download my Prayer for Teachers and use it to reflect on the ministry and vocation of teachers in your parish or school.