Seeking God’s Guidance in Education
Marie-Therese Pang shares about how her encounter with a young pupil facing difficulties in his life helped her to realise the difference being in a Catholic school, and being a Catholic educator, can make.
When I was doing my teaching internship programme in a Catholic school, one of my students told me that he was not feeling well but no one was able to pick him up from school. He shared that his mother had cancer, and his father was busy working. He asked me tearfully, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”
His story broke my heart. I didn’t know how to respond except to tell him that I was sorry and that I would be praying for him and his family.
“Thanks,” he answered, “But how do you know God is listening?”
I shared with him that perhaps when we pray it feels like God is silent or not answering our prayers, but faith means trusting that God hears and knows what is best for us. For him, this might have seemed especially difficult because he was unsure about what might happen to his mum, but I told him that when we are hurting, God shares our pain. The student contemplated this in silence but the opportunity to connect with him and pray for him impacted me deeply.
This encounter happened when I was still trying to discern whether I should try teaching or pursue a more profitable profession. My conversation with this student made me realise that being a teacher would allow me to share about my faith and let students know more about a God who loves them. I evaluated my choices, acknowledged my feelings and desires, and prayed about this. In my heart, I knew that being a teacher would mean an accompanying increase of faith, hope and love in my life. I felt a sense of peace, trusting that my decision was from God.
For students who sat for their PSLE this year, they will have to make a decision about their next stage of education. As your child chooses their secondary school and evaluates their options, parents play an important role in guiding them in their decision. What do you want for your child now? What do you want for them as adults? We want them to be in an environment where they can thrive and harness their unique gifts, but they should also be able to grow spiritually. Daily exposure to the faith should be a priority, whether in school or at home. This will build their foundation in the Catholic faith that they will bring into their adulthood.
Thinking back to my own schooling experience, as a student in Catholic primary and secondary schools, what differentiated the education experience for me was beginning the day with a prayer, the weekly masses and the way faith was seamlessly integrated into all facets of our education. I am always thankful that my formative years were in a Catholic school, in a Christ-centered environment where my faith was nurtured.
The friendships I made in Catholic schools are particularly precious to me as well. God has reasons for placing different people in our lives, and these spiritual friendships help me strengthen my resolve to be a better Catholic. My Christian friends hold me accountable, listen lovingly and know when I need to hear hard truths even when it is difficult.
However, it is also important to communicate and listen to your child’s preferences. Each school has their own strength and unique programmes that might best fit your child and fuel their passion to learn. There are also other practical considerations, like the distance from the school to your home. The school they eventually choose should allow them to develop holistically and harness their potential to give glory to God.
In a competitive society like Singapore, hearing and obeying God’s word can be hard when a school that guarantees success or prestige seems like the most logical choice. But the ultimate purpose of our lives cannot be to chase worldly successes. God does not value success or prestige for their own sake; he cares about how we can grow and guide others to the love and truth of Christ. In Catholic schools, we are reminded that learning and good grades should never be the end goal, but the goal of all learning is obedience to God’s word, thus giving glory to his name.
Discerning God’s will requires us to acknowledge our desires, evaluate our choices and apply the information that we have before making a decision. We can hear the word of God in many different ways – through scripture, through prayer, through a community. For me, He spoke to me through a boy who was struggling. If we see an option that brings an increase of faith, hope and love to our lives, we can trust that we are obeying God’s will.
Regardless of which school your child goes to, pray for teachers and friends who will surround your child to show them the grace and love of God, and that your child will similarly be a beacon of light to others.