As a new teacher of 9- and 10-year-olds in the Texas public school system many years ago, I was profoundly aware of the large gap between my students and those in the mainstream classes. My English as a second language class was made up of immigrant students, many of whose parents hadn’t completed their high school education and didn’t speak English themselves. I’d prayed to know how best to help them.
So it was heartwarming when one of my students found me on Facebook recently – several decades after I’d taught her – to share that she had graduated from college with a professional degree. That was a happy day!
There need to be many more such outcomes. For instance, a new United Nations report claims that 10-year-old girls are key to global prosperity, citing their education as a top factor (see “Why 10-year-old girls can lift the world,” CSMonitor.com). But girls – as well as women, men, and boys – too often face obstacles to learning and progress in their lives.
Over a century ago, Christian Science Discoverer Mary Baker Eddy overcame many of the limitations society imposed on women, including access to education. Through her own efforts, and with her brother’s help, she learned enough to become a schoolteacher in her own right. Above all, though, her love of God led her to the spiritual discovery of the Science of the Christ – of how to restore health and harmony based on the way Christ Jesus and his early followers had healed – and this is what lifted her to a profoundly different way of looking at, and overcoming, limitations of all kinds.
Mrs. Eddy wrote in her seminal work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” that “it is not so much academic education, as a moral and spiritual culture, which lifts one higher. The pure and uplifting thoughts of the teacher, constantly imparted to pupils, will reach higher than the heavens of astronomy; while the debased and unscrupulous mind, though adorned with gems of scholarly attainment, will degrade the characters it should inform and elevate” (p. 235).
It was this spiritual wisdom I leaned on when I was teaching in Texas. As a Christian Scientist, I had a deep desire to lift my thought above the cultural and socioeconomic impositions on my students and their futures, and instead consider the children’s spiritual nature, based on the Bible’s teaching that we are all created by God, in His image (see Genesis 1:26, 27). In particular, this verse from Isaiah inspired my prayers: “And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children. In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression” (54:13, 14).
It gave me hope to know that God, the one supreme intelligence, communicates His love to all of us. I prayed to see that these students’ futures didn’t have to include unjust treatment. God infinitely loves each of us, His spiritual creation, and He could never favor one of His children over another. Acknowledging this truth enables us to reject limitations and learn how to experience more of the abundant good that is ours to enjoy. Since God is unlimited, infinite good, there can never be a lack of good.
I made it a goal to put this “moral and spiritual culture” into practice in my approach to teaching, emphasizing my students’ unlimited potential, based on their God-given intelligence, which is independent of material circumstances, such as income or gender. This inspired me to make a point of celebrating their individual strengths, regardless of their grades or how proficient they were in English. The students made good progress, and at the end of the school year, I encouraged them to continue their schooling through college.
I moved on from teaching and eventually started a new career, but my former student’s Facebook message has inspired me to keep praying about this vital issue of educating both girls and boys as a way of contributing to the prosperity and progress of our global family.