I am back at work today in a flurry of snow and blizzard, all the kids are full of joy, happy to see each other. I have spent the last few days marking mocks for one of my exam classes who I have last thing this afternoon. They are a hard class, by which I mean they have not had the best experience of the education system and they treat teachers with a type of suspicion. Maybe they are right because today I will have to give them back their results and I know they will be disappointed and disheartened by the grades they receive.
I want them to believe, as I said in my earlier post (Totus Tuus) that they have an inestimable value and no matter what mark they get for their paper they have so many gifts and talents. We raise people to be competitive, to want the best and step over others to get it. Why? It will not make you happy when you get to the top and survey the wasteland you have left behind you.
Jean Vanier founded communities which many of you may have heard of- they are called L’Arche and care for the marginalised of society-adults with learning disabilities- Jean Vanier worked as a University lecturer and wrote a doctorate on Aristotle. However, his path then led him into contact with people with learning disabilities and suddenly he knew his calling, rejecting the highly competitive world of academia. For him these people were the purist reflection of God, the poor who in every society have been rejected. His homes now exist all over the world- they are communities in which all are equal whether disabled or not. Together they pray and rejoice and share their lives. These people, not those in his academic experience, were the greatest teachers Vanier had ever encountered.
Our world would see these people destroyed before they were born; wiped from our lives. Should we really measure our success by such a society? I believe not and I will do my best to make my students believe that. If they don’t believe me today perhaps they will look back a few years down the line and agree that the paper (which I spent a long time marking) did not tell them anything about who they are or what they are capable of. No man or grade boundary can do that because the soul is without limits and bounds- we do not even know what we are capbale of. That is the great mystery of our own lives, entwined inevitably and beautifully with the mystery of others. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.
A British paper published this article at the weekend, it is certainly not my favourite paper but this was something I appreciated reading: