David O. McKay School of Education

David O. McKay :: Addresses on Education

To the Teacher

 

The Editor's Page by President David O. McKay

Improvement Era, August 1955

[557] One of the most memorable scenes in all scripture happened presumably when Jesus, after a short stay in Perea, was on his way to Jerusalem to attend the Passover feast. We do not know in what village he entered when this beautiful incident occurred, but it is significant to remember that the conditions in Palestine in that day so far as women and children were concerned were entirely different from what they are as we of the Church of Jesus Christ know them now. Women and children were placed in the background, so to speak. But here we have Jesus, the Redeemer, honoring women and children.

Somewhere, sometime, undoubtedly the mothers of that village had heard him. Some irresistible power accompanied that Teacher which they had not felt from any other being, and mother-like, they desired to enjoy no happiness which their children might not share. And so we read that the mothers brought their infants that they might touch him. As they crowded near this divine Teacher, the disciples, still tinged with the prejudice of the Jews, would have pushed them back, rebuked them as to say, "Trouble not the Master." But when Jesus saw this action, he was much displeased and said, "Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God." (Luke 18:16.)

Teachers, what more inspiring words can you find in all the world than that! What more sublime lesson can be given than you find in these words!

And then he laid his hands upon them, and blessed them.

Two fundamental principles of teaching, principles indispensable to the success of the teacher, suggest themselves by this incident. One is personality, the other preparation. It was the divine character of Jesus which drew the women of Palestine to him, which drew as a magnet the children to touch him. It was the divine personality which attracted men, honest men, pure men. It was also that divine personality which antagonized the impure, the evil.

In the realm of personality, in the kingdom of character, Christ was supreme. By personality, I mean all that may be included in individuality. Personality is a gift from God. It is indeed a pearl of great price, and eternal blessing.

Fellow teachers, you and I cannot hope to exert, even to a small degree, the personality of our great Teacher, Jesus Christ. Each one's personality may be to the Savior's only as one little sunbeam to the mighty sun itself; and yet, though infinitely less in degree, each teacher's personality should be the same in kind. In the realm of character, each teacher may be superior and be such a magnet as will draw around him in an indescribable way those whom he would teach.

But no matter how attractive his personality may be to the members of the class, that teacher fails in his work who directs the love of the child only to the teacher's personality. It is the teacher's duty to teach the child to love -- not the teacher only, but the truth also. Always, every where, we find Christ losing himself for the truth he desires to teach.

Now as to preparation -- when the people came to Jesus and asked him for bread, they were never turned away with a stone. He always had truth to give. He understood it. It radiated from his being. Second, he understood how to use illustrations, the natural things around him to impress that truth upon his hearers. In other words, he was filled with his subject, and was enabled then, to give that subject to his hearers.

There are five things, among many others, which may be characterize the successful teacher in the Church:

First, implicit faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and a sincere desire to serve God. This condition [558] of the soul will merit the companionship and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Second, unfeigned love for the children, guided by a determination to deal justly and impartially with every member of the class. Honor the child, and the child will honor you.

Third, thorough preparation. The successful teacher studies the child, as well as the lesson.

Fourth, cheerfulness, not forced, but natural cheerfulness, springing spontaneously from a hopeful soul.

Fifth, power to act nobly.

"If you want to be a teacher, just watch your acts and walk;

If you want to be a teacher, just be careful how you talk."

And so, my fellow teachers: I ask that every man, every woman throughout the Church, determine with the help of God to stand and maintain in the midst of the children of the earth a character unpolluted, unsoiled, a character which is in substance the same kind as the Master Teacher, Jesus of Nazareth.

McKay, David O. "To the Teacher." The Improvement Era 58 (Aug. 1955): 557-558.