You are a Teacher—Be Careful What You Teach!

You are a Teacher—Be Careful What You Teach! December 21, 2023

You are a Teacher—Be Careful What You Teach!


I taught at a local religious elementary and high school many years ago. It was my first professional teaching job, and I was excited to pass along the knowledge I’d garnered over my years in college. The tiny religious school survived on a shoestring budget and the kindness and tuition of the parents and community. I was hired as the music teacher; however, I was also called on to teach science, math, English, history… and sometimes music.

You Never Know How You Will Teach

I had one student in my history class who would NOT pass. Period. There was no amount of extra credit, tutoring, or assistance I could give that would make a bit of difference. Furthermore, the student could not care less. When I approached the student with their grades, they kept saying, “I don’t care! I’m going into ‘The family’s business. I don’t care if I pass or not.” Exasperated, I asked, “What’s ‘The family’s’ business?’” Well, ask a stupid question… Imagine my surprise when the youngster told me “The family’s business” was very illegal!

My teaching training kicked in, and I replied, “Well, even in your family’s business, history plays a big part! They need to research, plan, and know the history of the situation they will be walking into. They don’t just go into (the nefarious action) blindly! Surprises are bad for what they’re doing!” The student gave me a wary look, smirked with rolling eyes, and walked away.

Every Good Deed…

At parent-teacher conference time, the student’s father asked to see me alone. Needless to say, I was nervous. I wished I’d become a banker, a veterinarian, a repairman… anything but a teacher of this father’s child. Soon, a mountain of a man strode into my classroom, scowling and proclaiming, “I’m [so-and-so’s] pappa.” I began to sweat, swallowed hard, and stuck out my hand for him to shake. Instantly, his bear paw-sized hands and arms were around me—hugging me. He began to sob.

All I could do was stand there and say, “It’s okay, it’s okay, whatever it is, it’ll be all right…”

After composing himself, he told me his child had told him about our exchange and “The family business.” He was suddenly shocked by the reality that his child not only knew what he did for a living but was planning on following in his footsteps. He sheepishly confessed that he would do anything to ensure that didn’t happen.

What are You Preaching and How?

The father had been preaching one thing, “Be good. Always do the right thing. Listen to your elders…” Meanwhile, his actions were teaching something different. The child was listening to their parent’s actions, hearing not the words but the outcome of their actions.

Everyone is constantly being watched and heard. It doesn’t matter if you are in the grocery or at church if you are at the movies or work. You are being seen, heard, and judged in everything you do or say. What do your actions and words proclaim about you? What are you teaching others about who and what you are?

Good Examples?

In the Acts of the Apostles (8:4-25), we hear of Phillip converting an entire community. James and Peter (in 1 Peter 3: 8-22) then came to “confirm” what Phillip had done and taught by laying hands on the people to confer the Holy Spirit to them, ensuring they honestly knew who the Christ was. We hear Peter telling the people in that day and us that we need to embrace holiness and be able to explain why we believe what we believe. Furthermore, we need to “show and tell” in a non-confrontational way. In other words, we need to show that we have changed; we must tell others by always showing love and respect.

So, what will happen if we “show and tell” we’ve become more Christ-like? Well, Jesus tells us (in John 14: 15-31) that IF we fully integrate what he taught into our lives, he will send the Holy Spirit to fill us and help us in every decision. So, how we live our lives teaches and proclaims to the entire world who and what we are.

So? What Happened?

If you were wondering what happened to the student and his family, I am thrilled to report that the father convinced the child that “The family business” was not for them. Shortly after that teacher’s conference, I regularly met with the father for a cup of coffee or a quick bite. The father was ashamed of who he was in his child’s eyes and wanted to turn that around before it was too late. It wasn’t easy on the father or his family, but over the next three years, he left “The family business,” took a severe pay cut, and followed his boyhood dream—to become a chef.

In no uncertain terms, it was not an easy transition—long hours, studying, drop in income, losing a house and status—but I’ve never seen a more significant change in a man and how his family looked at him.

Fast Forward

I lost track of the student, the father, and the family when I moved to a different city for work. After 10, 20, 30 years… I’ve now moved back to the same town I used to teach in. I’m happy to report that the father realized his boyhood dream and opened his own restaurant. As importantly, the father’s child followed in “the family business!” But this time, after attending business school and receiving an MBA, they operate and manage their father’s restaurant—a true jewel in their community.

So? What are you teaching by the way you live?

About Ben Bongers KM
Ben Bongers was an international operatic tenor and practicing sommelier for 30 years based in San Francisco, CA, and Europe. He has written monthly articles for trade magazines in wine and singing over a long and lustrous career. After becoming a semi-full-time caretaker for his parents, he earned an MA in Gerontology (the study of aging and care) and was asked to publish in an eldercare textbook in 2020. He has written several books, all published by EnRoute Books and Media. His first novel, THE SAINT NICHOLAS SOCIETY, has won many awards, and his other two, TRUE LOVE—12 Christmas Stories My True Love Gave to Me, and THE FARMER, THE MINER, THE ARTISAN (a children’s book) are both up for writing awards. Ben is a Knight in the Order of Malta and helped start an overnight homeless shelter at his San Francisco, CA parish. Today, he is a Permanent Diaconate Candidate in Kansas City, MO. You can read more about the author here.

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