Monsieur Lazhar – sowing seeds

(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.

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5 Comments

Filed under devotional, early faith, encouraging the heart, mission measurement, student outcomes

5 responses to “Monsieur Lazhar – sowing seeds

  1. Shirley VanBaak Martinus

    Oh, my goodness, I have NEVER had the least thought that I would have any reward in this life from teaching… and while I enjoyed homemade candy at Christmas-time, I never, ever thought that had the least relation to how well I had taught my students — that had everything to do with the mothers’ perceptions of their duties as mothers. So I figured. I always taught for God and eternity…

    Then this last night from my mother: > Another interesting letter today, this time from Fremont, from another woman who still remembers what Dad taught her in Sunday School. She said Dad taught a Chinese version of Bringing in the Sheaves which she has never forgotten. She wrote out what she tho’t the words were but I don’t recognize any of them. Guess I will ask Freda Tong what they are. I don’t remember ever learning that song in Chinese. The woman writes that her husband died six months ago so guess she is reliving old memories. She just wanted me to know that when she saw my name in the Banner she tho’t this memory of hers would make me smile, “realizing that these little episodes in a young child’s life do make an impression”. She grew up in Bauer where her name was VanderLaan.; she’s 74 years old. It made my day. Now, granted this was not from a former student of hers (although she got some of those, too, when she turned 90 and I put it in the Banner), nor was it from someone who heard the gospel from my parents on the mission field. But we don’t choose where all our seeds are sown, either! They may fall to the wayside unbeknownst to us and sprout it odd places where God only knows!

    PS: I was born while our family lived in Bauer, in between China where my older brother was born, and Japan where the younger three siblings were born. I feel so ordinary compared to their exotic birthplaces! I felt reallyreally ordinary while teaching in South Olive — thinking how far I’d come in my lifetime: all the way from Bauer to South Olive! Thank God I went around “the long way”!!

    Are you on facebook anywhere?

    Blessings upon you and your work! /svm

  2. I understand that you don’t see progress every day with every student. What you said sounds so hopeless. None of our teaching can begin without God’s blessing. With God you will see some of the fruit of your labor throughout the year. It is encouraging to have students or parents share something they learned during their year with you. Maybe praying for insight into your students would help.

  3. Anelia Wierbos

    This reminds me of my father’s last words to me as I left for my first teaching job. He said that God had called me to faithfully sow seeds and that it was not my right to see a harvest. He reminded me that it would be a gift if I was granted a glimpse of any harvests. He also asked me to keep learning and if I ever stopped to please leave education as I would no longer be faithful to my calling or effective with my students.
    These words have helped me through many situations and fueled me when my spirit was lagging….my Dad gave me my inheritance early…..he died 4 months later.

    • Thanks for these words, Anelia. You have contextualized what I was trying to get across. Let me address some of the comments in this reply. I am not trying to insinuate that teaching is not an intrinsically rewarding vocation; in fact I always found that the more I put into the craft and the more I cared about my relationship with the students, the more I felt a sense of doing God’s work. I always felt very rewarded.

      Some have read this piece as very negative, I was feeling more hopeful than negative when I wrote it which is something that you, Anelia, have captured in your comment. In my experience (others may have experienced differently) the fruit of teaching-labour is not immediately seen. I’m talking big picture, long-term fruit here. Yes, we see that students have memorized their multiplication tables and that they’ve learned to read, but we don’t often see them become the God-fearing, spirit-led, responsive disciples that we devote our lives to training. This is, of course, a formative process that happens over long periods of time. We must have faith that God is going before us to prepare the soil for the seeds that we’re going to plant.

      I hope this shows that I’m not being hopeless, in fact this very attitude helps me to create the right posture in relation to the long-term kingdom work for which I’ve been commissioned.

      • Jill Dahm

        Thanks for clarifying what you meant. I am sorry I seemed harsh. I agree that we won’t see all of what we have sown, with the Spirit’s guidance, come to fruition. I am grateful God allows us little glimpses into our students hearts during discussions and in the older grades through their writings, as an encouragement to persevere.

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