Educating children, whether it be in the classroom or at home, can be a difficult process. In particular, children can often grow bored of a subject and mentally “clock out,” leaving the teacher frustrated.
To remedy the situation, St. John Bosco, an influential Italian priest of the 19th century, wrote a letter to help his teachers understand what they needed to do.
He related a story in his letter of an old pupil who needed help at his school. The boys were listless, bored and didn’t even enjoy games. His pupil asked, “But how can we bring these youngsters to life again, so that we can get back to the liveliness, the happiness, the warmth of the old days?”
St. John Bosco said plainly, “With charity!”
Surprised, his pupil responded, “With love? … I have done everything I possibly could for them; they are the object of all my affections.”
Don Bosco explained, “[The best thing is missing] That the youngsters should not only be loved, but that they themselves should know that they are loved.”
Still confused, Bosco gave a more lengthy explanation of what he meant.
By being loved in the things they like, through taking part in their youthful interests, they are led to see love in those things which they find less attractive, such as discipline, study and self-denial, and so learn to do these things too with love.
By a friendly informal relationship with the boys, especially in recreation. You cannot have love without this familiarity, and where this is not evident there can be no confidence. If you want to be loved, you must make it clear that you love. Jesus Christ made himself little with the little ones and bore our weaknesses. He is our master in the matter of the friendly approach. The teacher who is seen only in the classroom is a teacher and nothing more; but if he joins in the pupils’ recreation he becomes their brother.
He saw the relationship a teacher had with his/her students as a primary way to combat boredom in other subjects. If the student understands that he is loved by his teacher, then he will be more readily interested in those things that aren’t his favorite activities.
This is one of the pillars of Salesian education, something that has been passed down over the years and has proven to be an effective means of reaching children of all ages.
7 Saintly tips on how to discipline a child, from Don Bosco