(Thanks to my friend Paul Marcus, COO at Community Christian School, Drayton, ON and COO at Orangeville Christian School, ON, for sharing this blog post. Paul blogs at Paul Marcus Online.)
I had the opportunity to watch this beautiful film on the weekend. I’d never heard of it before doing some rummaging through the dearth of information on rottentomatoes. It’s amazing what you find when you dig below the surface of mainstream monotony.
I’m not going to give a review here, there are many sites that can do that justice better than I. However, I wanted to share a piece of a conversation that Monsieur Lazhar has with one of his colleagues at the school in which he just started teaching. In fact, as we find out eventually in the film, he hasn’t actually taught before. The internal struggle that he has is one that I think every educator has had at some point in their careers; I call it the ‘Just Sowing the Seed” struggle. This is a struggle that exists because, no matter what consultants and pedagogues tell us, there’s no way to measure the meaningful progress that we’re making with students. How many of us have had a child leave our classroom at the end of a year where we can’t discern a noticeable difference in their lives?
Monsieur Lazhar has this struggle as he works through his pedagogy. He walks into a neighbouring classroom to see that it doesn’t ‘look like a hospital’ as his does. Later as he’s having a drink with this colleague, the following dialogue ensues arising from his frustration and lack of confidence:
M. Lazhar: “And it’s my fault because I’ve forgotten to put some colour in their lives.”….”I feel guilty for having abandoned them”.
Colleague: “Even the ones we’re not able to reach we don’t abandon.”
We find out that Monsieur Lazhar’s comment may arise as an allusion to a life experience of his, but the response by his colleague is meaningful. Even the ones we’re not able to reach we don’t abandon. I’ve often been sitting with a group of teachers where we’ve felt equally discouraged and we’ve had to admit that we just have to ‘sow the seed.’ Teaching is one of those jobs that is thankless. Sure, we get the gift cards at Christmas for Chapters and Tim Horton’s (Starbucks if we’re lucky), but we rarely see the product of our labour. We have to submit that our work is a work of scaffolding: we do the work we can and we have faith that God will continue our work when our students have moved on.
Only if we stay in our craft for long enough do we have the opportunity to have a student who we’ve taught come and say “thank you,” and even then only if we’re the lucky few. For now, we’ll have to take solace in the faith that God goes before us and with our students.