Choosing to be A Teacher

There is a folk tale about five fellows lined up at the gates of Olympus, four of whom are scrambling to be admitted into the Kingdom.  Zeus decides who enters and he calls each person before the gates.

“You, there, who are you and what have you accomplished?”

“Zeus, Your Honor,  I am a lawyer,  I have won the release of many prisoners  and have defended many poor people.”

“Wonderful work.  Truly wonderful. And so because you have been a faithful servant enter into the Kingdom of Olympus.”

“You, there, who are you and what have you accomplished?”

“Your Majesty, I am a doctor.  I have cured many sick people and restored them to health.  And I only accepted payment which my patients could afford.”

“Wow!  A marvelous work. Who are you and what have you accomplished?”

And Zeus did the same with the third and fourth men, one a priest and the other an architect. The fifth man, a bit older than the others, not so distinguished, remained at the side of the pearly gate. Zeus was interested because he saw the glint in the man’s eyes every time one of the other four had gained entry into the kingdom of Olympus.

“And you, old fellow, you don’t seem so eager to enter the Kingdom of Olympus as the others.  And I say the light in your eyes each time one of them was admitted to the kingdom, who are you and what have you accomplished?”

“Zeus, most honored, truly I was so happy to see those four admitted to the Kingdom because of the wonderful works which they accomplished.  And I – I haven’t done very much.  I was their teacher.”

“Oh! Teacher! You have done more valuable work than all the others.  Come into the Kingdom, sit beside me and together we will dream of the kingdom”.

When I first read this tale five years ago, my heart was touched and it stayed in my heart and mind. When my fellow teachers felt useless and lost hope, I would tell them this story.  And you could see they were motivated again to follow their calls to be teachers.

What touched me was the simplicity and humility of that Teacher.  My own experience as a teacher for kids four, five and six years old, has been beyond belief; I have been able to give them “life” because each day they give me life.  One beautiful experience:  when the kids are busy with their work, writing the alphabet or reading, I sit with them and do the same things.  This day, it was copying letters of the alphabet.  This wasn’t new, and most of the kids could already do it well, but one little boy,  Jojo, was very slow to learn the motor skills.  I was sitting with Jojo and beside me were Tiwi, Yudha and Naufal.  Seeing Tiwi, Yudha and Naufal I rejoiced because they could do their letters so well,  But when I looked at Jojo my heart was heavy,  and I thought, “Oh Lord, what have I done wrong  that Jojo hasn’t learned, and what should I do to help him.?”  Without realizing it as I was thinking this, I heaved a great sigh.  Yudha instantly said, “Yo! Sister,Why are you breathing like that?”  I answered a bit nervously, “I’m just a little short of breath.” Yudha right away replied, “Oh, I have lots of breath, do you want some?”  “Of course,” And he drew a long, deep breath and blew it right toward my face. I hesitated a minute to respond and he said “Yudha still haslots of breath, want some more?”  And he blew me some more. Then he said to his friends  “Yeah, a little while ago Yudha gave sister breath.”  And they all said they had lots to give too.

This little experience makes me so proud of my profession as a teacher of little ones. Such experiences give me life, strengthen my call as a teacher and as a religious.

It’s often said that a teacher gives and a student receives. But the opposite can also happen. A teacher can become a teacher because the students give her life.

Jovita Triwiludjeng, rscj (Lulud)

Area of Indonesia Jakarta, 2012