The teacher is a person who can really understand
My problems and my questions and who wants to lend a hand.
He seems to know just what I think as if he once were small,
And when I have to talk to him it isn’t hard at all.
He shows me how to do things and he teaches me the way
To tackle every problem if at home or school or play.
The way he can explain things often makes me wonder why
I cannot see the answer when alone I often try.
He reads to us in such a way that makes a story seem
To really happen just the way that things do in a dream.
He tries to place before us all the highest goals and best,
Then demonstrates with patience how we all can pass the test.
He teaches us to choose the right and to despise the wrong,
Because he wants to help us live a life that ends in song.
My teacher’s wise and good and kind and just the sort of man
I want to be when I grow up and I become a man.
This poem was written in the summer of 1964 and was printed the following summer in QUASSA, the weekly publication of the Queen’s University Summer School Association, bulletin # 4, July 28, 1965.
The style and content of the poem are intended to resemble the musings of an elementary school boy who has developed a great respect and admiration for his teacher both as a trusted friend and as a man.
It is hoped that the admittedly idealistic message of the poem will serve to encourage and inspire teachers to more optimistic efforts in the discharge of their professional duties. Possibly it can renew the vision of some teacher who, as a result of the dulling grind of daily routine and often dreary, menial tasks, has temporarily lost sight of the primacy and distinction of his calling.
Perhaps Henry Adams sums up my inspiration for writing this poem in these immortal words: “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” It is therefore imperative that that influence be as peerless, as worthy and as efficacious as is humanly possible.
It is the author’s wish that all teachers who read this poem will return to their work with renewed courage, energy, enthusiasm and dynamic, and an inner assurance that whether it shows or not, their efforts are having a lasting impact on young lives and that the impressions left today may well become the determiners of tomorrow’s actions.
It is now 43 years since I penned the above words (poem and explanation). If anything has changed since that time in the Western World, perhaps it is only in the volume and shocking nature of the overwhelming evidence we are amassing daily to awaken us to the fact that mere academic education and skill in teaching, while of great value, are far from adequate elements to prepare young people for a successful life or to build a safe and sane society. Scarcely a day passes without reports of tragic violence or indecency involving young people who have no moral compass. We have lost our way as a society. The toll in financial, institutional and human costs is unbearable.
We constantly hear talk shows and documentaries pondering what went wrong to permit or cause the perpetrators to commit such atrocities. Experts and policy makers debate and puzzle over how the authorities missed the warning signs.
To anyone with the upbringing I was privileged to enjoy, the causes and warning signs are as clear as the nose on your face. The news stories are full of the sad and tragic details of children, teens and young adults growing up in a Post-Christian, Post-Modernist society where truth is relative, moral purity of mind and body are optional and violence, obscenity, sacrilege and double standards are portrayed as acceptable. The posters on their walls, their books and movies, their dress, language, behavior and attitude are enough to cause me grave concern. I am surprised there isn’t more trouble. Unless we deal with basic moral issues from a Godly perspective, we can expect a further escalation in sexual obsession and perversion, drug addiction, violence and hopelessness in the days ahead.
What our society needs is a return to the acknowledgment of God as our GOD, and the recognition of our basic sinful nature that needs to be rehabilitated by His saving grace through the spiritual new-birth made available by the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ His Son. We desperately need a return to the reading and teaching of the Bible and prayer in our homes, and society in general, to restore civility to our culture. We need mothers and dads who teach and model Christian values to their children. We need teachers who recognize that their moral influence is more important than their academic degrees and technical skill. We need political leaders who are less concerned with political correctness, and more concerned with truth, common sense and fairness. We need public policy to allow for tax diverted or supported schools to which parents can send their children where their spiritual and cultural values are not mocked and eroded. We need a justice system and judges that defend the innocent and punish the guilty. We need a legal system that recognizes and reflects God’s laws as supreme.
We need a re-stored public awareness that the unrestricted lust for money, pleasure and so-called freedom of choice, even when it includes wicked behavior, is no real freedom at all, nor is it a path to happiness. WE need a return to personal and societal faith in God and His moral code. In the past, that is what gave rise to the freedoms and rapidly disappearing benefits of our privileged standard of living in western Europe and North America. God help us to wake up before it is forever too late.