Br Nicholas Seet, a Lasallian brother for nearly 30 years, is a Subject Head for Citizenship and Character Education, and also teaches History, Social Studies, and Religious Citizenship and Character Education at St Patrick’s Secondary School. He shares more about his life and calling to be a religious educator.
What are some difficulties in your area of work with schools and education?
The challenge is in guiding our students to develop their character based on values as well as help our Catholic students to centre their lives on the Lord Jesus. Being in their growing years, some students may test the boundaries of behaviour and try or experiment with at-risk activities and easily succumb to negative peer pressure.
How do you overcome them?
Through developing a rapport with the students so that they will trust us as teachers. It is by building a reservoir of goodwill or social capital such that the students will feel comfortable with you, share with you their difficulties and challenges in school, in their family and in their personal lives.
What is the fondest memory of your time working in the education sector?
It is to meet former students who have done well in life, are still single or married and having children. To do well does not mean having a high paying job but that they have grown into responsible men and fathers.
When you are faced with difficult students, what is one thing you tell yourself?
The students are confided to our care by the Lord and being young, they are still learning and growing. I must give them the leeway to make mistakes, and more importantly, to help them to learn from their mistakes. I cannot condemn them just because of the mistakes they make. They are still growing and need to be helped to earn to become more responsible to their families and themselves.
What does being a Catholic educator mean to you?
I am a religious Brother and Catholic education is my calling in life. The Lord has called me to this mission. Being Catholic means that I must help to strengthen and deepen the students’ relationships with the Lord through various means in the school, such as public prayer, Catholic CCAs like the Legion of Mary, our RCCE lessons, and Catholic programmes.
Being Catholic also means that I do not neglect the other non-Catholic students in my school. On the contrary, it means that I must be a brother also to the non-Catholics that the Lord has sent to our schools. I must help them too to become better human beings, respectful of their religious traditions and beliefs. I am reminded that the Church is here to serve everyone, both Catholic and non-Catholic. In this way, the Church can be a service to our society and nation. I think that when we help build a harmonious society of diverse races and religions, then we help to build the Kingdom of God on earth.
Why is education an important aspect of the La Salle Brothers?
Our holy founder, St John Baptist de La Salle, founded the Brothers to look after the education of the poor children in Reims, France more than 350 years ago. We continue our founder’s vision and mission in our schools and educational centres in Singapore. We seek to groom students whose lives are based on values and who can live out those values in society.
What is one thing about St John Baptist de La Salle that inspires you?
For my founder, it is that the Lord led him one step at a time. St La Salle had mentioned that if he had known what the Lord had in mind for him near the end of his life, he would have thought twice about it. Rather, he acknowledged that the Lord led him from one commitment to another, and in spite of the challenges, the result was that the poor children of France had an education—a privilege reserved for the rich and upper class during his time. At the end of his life, my founder said “I adore in all things, the Will of God, in my regard.”
Has a student ever inspired you or taught you something valuable?
I learn from the students much more than I can ever teach them. There are too many stories to share. Perhaps, it is of the students whom we judge that they cannot cope academically. Yet these are the ones who will come back to school, to thank the teachers and to be able to hear their stories of how they have done well.
I am reminded of a student who did not do well academically, had great difficulties in his family but who eventually came back to the practice of the Faith. He is married and has started his own business. I would not have thought then when he was a student that he could be so successful today. Of course, these are the successful stories. There are still former students who have made good after some grave mistakes in their lives. I think it is a matter of time when the Lord will lead them in the right path. After all, they had studied in our Lasallian schools which will remind them of the love and care that the teachers had tried to shower on them, though for some, it will be tough love.
How about your teacher colleagues? Has a teacher ever inspired you or taught you something valuable?
I admire the many past teachers and Brothers who taught me when I was a child. I studied at the then St Michael’s School, St Joseph’s Institution at Bras Basah Road and at Catholic Junior College. Looking back, each teacher is unique and they taught me what it is that makes a person more human. I cannot remember exactly what they taught me academically but I remember their sense of commitment and their dedication to their work. For the Brothers, I saw them as men of prayer and men who gave their lives to the Lord. That is why I became a Brother, because of the good example of these Brothers whom I saw in school.
What is one aspect or character of a Catholic school that you appreciate the most?
It is the many daily reminders of the Lord. Here at St Patrick’s School where I teach, we have Morning Prayers with about 35 boys each morning. Then we have our Morning Assembly Prayers, the praying of the Angelus at noon, the school Prayer services and Masses as well as the Catholic societies like the St Vincent de Paul Society to help the less fortunate children and the Legion of Mary.
What difference would it make if a parent (especially a Catholic parent) enrolled his children in a Catholic school?
In a Catholic school, the child is constantly reminded that there is a spiritual dimension in life and the Catholic environment and ambience will help to strengthen his or her relationship with the Lord.
What is one advice you would give to teachers today?
Our vocation is a God-given one and we are privileged that the Lord has called us to this task or mission. I am sure many teachers feel the same way.