“Teaching Is a Beautiful Job. . .” by Pope Francis

This post is dedicated to the memory of my paternal great-grandfather, Rev. Pinkney Jerome Schell, an ordained Baptist minister and school master in western North Carolina:

“Teaching is a beautiful job, as it allows you to see growth, day by day, of people entrusted to your care.  It is a little like being parents, at least spiritually. It is a great responsibility. .

You must not teach just content, but the values and customs of life. A computer can teach content.  Instead there are three things that you must transmit: how to love, how to understand which values and customs create harmony in society.  For that we need good teachers!

Teachers must aim to build an educational relationship with each student, who must feel welcomed and loved for what he or she is, with all of their limitations and potential. In this direction, your task is now more necessary than ever.”

– Pope Francis

Please read the entire message from Pope Francis on the teaching profession, below:


Excerpt from link:

“Below a Vatican Radio translation of the Holy Father’s prepared text:

Dear colleagues,

allow me to address you as such, given that I too have been a teacher like you and I have fond memories of my days spent in the classroom with students.  I cordially greet you all and thank the President for his kind words.

Teaching is a beautiful profession, … it’s a pity teachers are badly paid…because it is not just about the time they spend in school, but the time they spend in preparation, the time they spend on each individual student.  I think of my own country, where many teachers have to work double shiofts just to be able to get a decent wage. But what state will a teacher be in after a double shift?

It is a beautiful and badly paid job, because it allows us to see the people who are entrusted to our care grow day after day. It is a little like being parents, at least spiritually. It is a great responsibility!

Teaching is a serious commitment that only a mature and balanced personality can take on. Such a commitment can be intimidating, but remember that no teacher is ever alone: ​​They always share their work with other colleagues and the entire educational community to which they belong.

Your association is celebrating 70 years of life: This is a beautiful age! It is only right to celebrate, but also begin to weigh up this lifetime.
When you were born, in 1944, Italy was still at war. You have come a long way since then! Schools have come a long way. And Italian schools have moved forward with the help of your Association, which was founded by Professor Nosengo Gesualdo, a religion teacher who felt the need to gather together the secondary teachers of that time, who identified with the Catholic faith, and who with this inspiration worked in the schools.

In all these years you have helped the country to grow, you have helped to reform the school, you have especially contributed to educate generations of young people.

Over the past 70 years Italy has changed, schools have changed, but there are always teachers willing to engage in their profession with that enthusiasm and willingness that faith in the Lord gives us.

As Jesus taught us, the Law and the Prophets are summed up in two commandments: love the Lord your God and love your neighbor (cf. Mt 22,34-40). We can ask ourselves: who is a teacher’s neighbor? The students! It is with them that he or she spends their days. It is they who await guidance, direction, a response – and, before that, good questions!

UCIIM’s tasks include the call to enlighten and motivate a just idea of ​​the school, sometimes overshadowed by discussions and reductive positions. The school is certainly composed of a valid and qualified education, but also of human relations, which for us are welcoming and benevolent relations, to be offered indiscriminately to all. Indeed, the duty of a good teacher – all the more for a Christian teacher – is to love his or her more difficult, weaker, more disadvantaged students with greater intensity. Jesus would say, if you love only those who study, who are well educated, what merit have you? Any teacher can do well with such students. I ask you to love “difficult” students more … and there are some who really try our patienece, but we have to love them more..those who do not want to study, those who find themselves in difficult conditions, the disabled and foreigners, who today pose a great challenge for schools.

If a professional association of Christian teachers wants to bear witness to their inspiration today, then it is called to engage in the peripheries of the school, which cannot be abandoned to marginalization, exclusion, ignorance, crime. In a society that struggles to find points of reference, young people need a positive reference point in their school. The school can be this or become this only if it has teachers capable of giving meaning to the school, to study and culture, without reducing everything to the mere transmission of technical knowledge.  Instead they must aim to build an educational relationship with each student, who must feel welcomed and loved for what he or she is, with all of their limitations and potential. In this direction, your task is now more necessary than ever.

You must not teach just content, but the values and customs of life. A computer can teach content.  Instead there are three things that you must transmit: how to love, how to understand which values and customs create harmony in society.  For that we need good teachers!!

The Christian community has many examples of great educators who dedicated themselves to addressing the shortcomings of education systems or to establish schools in their own right. We think, among others, of  St. John Bosco, the bicentenary of whose birth we  this year. Christian teachers should look to these figures to animate a school from within, regardless of whether it is state-run or not it needs credible educators and witnesses of a mature and complete humanity.

As an Association, you are by nature open to the future, because there are always new generations of young people to whom you may transmit your wealth of knowledge and values. On a professional level it is important to update teaching skills, especially in light of new technologies, but teaching is not just a job: it is a relationship in which each teacher must feel fully involved as a person, to give meaning to the educational task towards their students. Your presence here today is proof that you have the motivation that the school needs.
I encourage you to renew your passion for humanity in the process of formation, and to be witnesses of life and hope. I also ask you, please, to pray for me, and I cordially bless you all.
(Emer McCarthy)”

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Loving our Enemies

 I posted the following in commemoration of 9/11.  It is pertinent here because its core asks the reader to reflect upon the question as to whether we are our brother’s keeper or whether, instead, existence is only about us, and materialism.


“Change internally, within each of us, often does not manifest itself immediately but, over time, it will.  September 11, 2001, awakened us to the fact that life is more than the pursuit of expensive cars and homes.  It is more than securing our prestige and our status.  It is more than happiness with our families, in fact.  We have come to understand that we enter this world, alone, and we go out of it, alone. That is what 9/11 forced us to acknowledge. So what have we done with our deepened consciousness?  How have we related, and how will we yet relate, to one another, including our enemies?

We are in the process of becoming, not only in America, but in this world.  It appears that the world’s people are evolving somewhat more quickly than are Americans, at this point in time.  The German Chancellor has taken multitudes of refugees into her nation.  Other nations have done the same.  Yet, here in America, some governors have been maneuvering to keep their state’s limit of refugees as low as possible.  Americans, as I see it, have been in the wilderness of undue self-interest for almost a half-century. Perhaps, with the emerging generosity of others in the world to those less fortunate than themselves, Americans, also, will recognize that we are all one, both in our nation and in our world.

Mahatma Gandhi had said, ” ‘An eye for an eye’ will only make all of us blind.” Spiritual leaders of all religions have long understood that only love can overcome hate, anger, and selfishness to create peace for all. People throughout our nation and world must finally acknowledge this spiritual truth if we are to survive on this planet.  That means we must care for our neighbors as ourselves. 9/11 awakened us to that spiritual truth. Now, we must let that truth further evolve in our souls, and emerge – sooner than later – outward to the reality of the living world, day in and day out.  Difficult as it often is, we must learn to love our enemies.  They are one with us – equal human beings, capable of both good and evil.”

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Our World’s Need for Unconditional Love

I posted the following words on Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jay Bookman’s blog this morning, Sunday, September 13, 2015, in response to his Sunday column, which was condensed from the blog interview he posted on September 11, 2015.  Link to his Sunday column in the AJC: http://www.myajc.com/news/news/opinion/on-911-islam-and-america/nncM5/


Link to his full interview, posted in Jay Bookman’s blog on 9/11/15



“Jay Bookman’s column in today’s paper entitled, ” 9/11, Islam and America” needs to be read by everyone.

The tenets that Imam Muhammed al-Ninowy of Lawrenceville and Duluth espouses are the only way to have peace in this world, imo.  They are the same tenets spoken by Jesus Christ 2000 years ago. They are the same tenets spoken by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Ghandi.  When will we learn and why don’t we try to understand this?

Imam Muhammed al-Ninowy: ” ‘Especially when I talk of love and unconditional compassion,’ he says. ‘Unconditional.  To me, that is the very first thing in Islam: Unconditional compassion. . . .That’s being true to the Scripture itself, why don’t you read it?  Instead of hijacking it based on a political principle.’ ”


From my experiences, the practice of unconditional love, toward even our enemies, is harder to achieve than violence (even in words) against our enemies.  Yet, all of the great religious leaders know that this is the only way to peace, including the Buddhas.  We could start, together, in that practice, here in Atlanta and it might spread.  In fact, we could practice it right here on this blog.  I know I need to, and I will try.  Will you join me?”


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Two Approaches for Classroom Discipline

I posted the following remarks on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
 blog, “Get Schooled, ” Sept. 10, 2015:

“To all who are interested in classroom discipline:

The essence in the difference between the other poster’s post and mine, relative to cause and effect is ‘which comes first the chicken or the egg.’

The other poster’s words, paraphrased and summarized, stated that teachers should have excellent instructional skills (communication and curriculum area knowledge) and classroom discipline.  He states that without discipline it is “almost impossible” to achieve excellent instructional skills in the classroom, as if discipline is a separate skill which is first imposed before instruction can happen. The other poster says that the egg comes first (get discipline established, first) and, then, the chicken will follow (an excellent lesson based on excellent instruction).

My post reverses his order and his thinking (which is a fundamental difference in educational philosophy).  I state that when the teacher has excellent instructional skills (communication and knowledge), then disciplinary concerns will take care of themselves because the students will be authentically involved in the ideas/skills/concepts within the day’s lesson and will not be thinking about how to disrupt the class.  I say, then, that the chicken comes first (excellent lesson based on excellent instruction) and that the disciplinary egg, if you will, is, thereafter, produced, naturally.

Of course, in reality both of these different approaches are used by various teachers in various degrees in the classroom just as some actors find their roles by going inward for the character’s essence, and other actors will manifest their roles through external techniques such as gestures, costumes, etc.  In truth, both techniques are used on the stage by actors, just as some teachers will enforce discipline both through a disciplinary plan, in and of itself, and other teachers will enforce that discipline through ensuring that they have stimulating, motivational lessons, filled with interest and complexity. That is why at the end, the other poster and I were both in agreement that both (or all three, as you may count) ways go ‘hand-in-hand,’ just as the outstanding actor incorporates both internal and external techniques to fully manifest his role on the stage during performance.”

Link: http://getschooled.blog.ajc.com/2015/09/09/evaluating-teachers-can-georgia-get-it-right/

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One World – Via Middle Eastern Refugees

I posted the following remarks on Jay Bookman’s blog on September 9, 2015.  Bookman is a columnist and blogger for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Link: http://jaybookman.blog.ajc.com/2015/09/10/the-jeb-bush-tax-plan-its-time-to-let-the-big-dog-eat/

“God works in mysterious ways.  The world is becoming one faster than we could have imagined.  The refugee movement of people from place to place and the illegal immigration movement from place to place are making it so.  The lines between our arbitrary nations are becoming as thin as the fragile line between life and death.

The refugees are on the move not only because of fear for their lives in autocratic dictatorships but because the taste of real freedom and real egalitarianism has touched their souls in the last 6 or 7 years and has made them realize that there is hope in this world for freedom and safety.  And, they are going to find it, come hell or high water.

The illegal immigrants from Mexico to the U. S., likewise, have reached a level of consciousness that they realize that Texas and a greater part of the SW USA were once Mexico and all of the labels are becoming outdated.  We will become one world whether we want it or not, and Jefferson’s spiritual truths will prevail in that one world.”



Okay, let Mary Elizabeth speak for herself.

The slant of the NY Times article was on who was picking up the refugees rather than so much on why they became refugees.  The article’s slant was also that the U.S. should do more to help.  I liked it because it blended with my thinking of our expanding “one world’s” growing pains.

The article as I recall mentioned a reason for the Syria refugee situation was the Civil War in which America was involved.  It also gave a bit of history on the cruelties of the Assad regime.

I believe in metaphysical cause and effect, sort of like Karma, but with historical thoughts not just personal ones.  I believe the fact of America’s slavery and Jim Crow has created bitterness between the races and the reason that blacks are behind other groups in literary skills as a whole for this period in history, but that is changing because of teachers like me whose focus and training have been on the development of literary skills in our young. (It is not the result of innate intelligence.)  Likewise, I believe that the repression of the autocrats to the people in many Middle Eastern nations has had a residual effect of anger and unfulfilment in citizens in that part of the world that is springing loose (deliberately chosen words) now not only because of long-endured pain and repression but also because of the Civil War in Syria in which America has played its part.  I also remember that President Obama had wanted to bomb Assad several years back, as a Commander in Chief, but chose instead, upon reflection, to let Congress (as the representatives of the people of the U.S.) make that call, not him, as the British Prime Minister had first done, himself.

Complexities both present and past, internal and external, and the innate desire for freedom in every person’s soul on Earth, in combination.  Timing is everything.  Only God knows when and why.

 Another Poster:


The point I keep trying to make and which is only now even being mentioned in the MSM (though the foreign press has proven less hesitant) is that of why this current flood.  It lies directly in the lap of the current US administration.

No one seems to be asking why it is that groups which heretofore had chosen to stay, if not in Syria proper, at least in the general area are all of the sudden leaving out en masse.

As you so aptly put it, “timing is everything.”

And, again, the article referenced: 1) a Magyar apologia,  2) says absolutely zero about what spurred this recent flood of refugees, and 3) says zero about just who these most recent refugees from Syria are.


@ The other Poster

Why regarding the Syrians fleeing now?  Remember the “Arab Spring” made manifest in words in Barack Obama’s speech at Cairo University in Egypt, in 2009?  The Middle Eastern nations and their people are still “springing” in various ways because their souls have finally been set free, individually, one at a time, to have the courage to make the move toward a more free and more safe existence for themselves.  In that sense, President Obama has played his part in God’s plan as I see it, as a spiritual, egalitarian catalyst to urge people throughout the world to seek freedom.

Obama received the Nobel Prize when he did because the Nobel Prize Committee was wise enough to understand that what one holds (Obama) in one’s mind eventually plays out in reality on the world’s stage and Obama has had the mind and spirit to urge the world forward in the ways that it has been destined to move.

Mary Elizabeth to the Other Poster:

We have never seen with the same eyes, you and I.  God made us different in how we see the world.  You must speak with your voice, and I must speak with mine.

Other Poster


I appreciate the comment.  It is your way of dealing with unpleasant and inhumane conditions occasioned by our President acting in the name of our people.  This is my way of dealing with the same.  There will come the day when a younger generation will ask the same question my generation asked relative to the Shoah…why was it not stopped when it could have been.



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Thinking with Nuance and with Complexity

I  posted the following remarks on “Get Schooled” blog of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Saturday, September 5, 2015. I hope that the readers of “MaryElizabethSings” will take the time to read what I have posted, below, because I think that my thoughts will foster that peace in the world which we all seek.  I begin with understanding the complexity in teaching reading skills, but I build to the complexity within a world vision, thereafter.


“As a reading specialist, I have helped many students to learn to read well (or better), from remedial students to advanced students and I well know the value of pre-kindergarten students knowing their letters and sounds and sight words even before they start kindergarten.

However, I applaud this author for understanding, beyond letters and sounds and individual words, the organic, developmental whole of nurturing a child from birth onward to be one with himself emotionally, physically, and intellectually.  A parent’s nurturing in these ways has tremendous impact upon even reading skills.  We know that often when children stutter, it can spring from an interruption in the natural emotional development of many of these children.  And, I applaud this author for understanding that each child will have his own natural rate of development in absorbing skills.  This is what I have mentioned regarding continuous progress in grades 1 – 12, but in actuality this individual rate of development begins before grade one.  It begins at birth, and even before birth.

Often, I have encouraged people reading this blog to “refine” their thinking processes.  Exactly, what have I meant by this?  I have meant that the more complexity of thought we can hold in our minds – intellectual and emotional understanding – the more nuanced or refined our thinking processes will be, and the more we are able to alter the world in positive ways because this nuanced thinking is more in tune with emotional and intellectual truths.  More specifically, it means that we can contain what most people think as paradoxical thought as combined thought to a greater understanding, or more refined or nuanced understanding of truth.  This holds true for individuals as well as for ideas.  That is why I can simultaneously understand how teaching children the mechanics of reading early and reading to them and talking to them, goes hand in hand with a mother’s “cooing” to her infants as she rocks them.  These forces work together to create a balanced individual.

Thinking in paradoxical thought is what allows me to understand how Thomas Jefferson could have slaves and even have children by his slave mistress of 37 years (his deceased wife’s half sister) and still believe fervently in the fact that all are created equal and be against slavery.  Jefferson thought in terms of process, not rigidities.

Moreover, thinking in complexities is what can allow me to encourage a poster to release himself from anger and even hate in order to try to help that poster spiritually, even if I do not agree with his philosophical or political views, and even if I do not like him or her personally. It is possible to try to help someone you do not like, just as it is possible to love your enemies.  Complex thought. Nuanced thought. Refined thought.  We are all better off the deeper we know ourselves and others, and that comes from study, not of math or science, but of human nature and spiritual truths found in literature, the arts, and history.

I hope that most will understand, and benefit from, the cohesion in my thoughts expressed here.”


In a political arena, I believe that it will take putting together paradoxes in our own minds, and expanding those paradoxes to a point where they can contain harmony, to build that world peace, as Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama seem to understand as they build relationships with world leaders who at times have been America’s enemies.

The Six-Member nation agreement with Iran, including the U.S., Russia, China and the United Kingdom, France, and Germany is an example where, even with so-called enemy nations in the world, we can forge ways to work together for our mutual benefit. My below post starts specifically with seemingly paradoxical or different approaches to the teaching of reading skills, but it builds to a crescendo of a worldview for building peace on Earth.  We are all becoming one on Earth, as climate change and refugee and immigrant movement have demonstrated, already. We will need to find ways to continue to work in harmony, even with former enemies, for the mutual benefit of all of our children throughout the planet, and their children, in matters such as nuclear disarmament and climate change, among other matters, some of which cannot now be foreseen.

Link to the “Get Schooled” blog on which my words, above, appeared: http://getschooled.blog.ajc.com/2015/09/04/why-parents-should-ignore-the-make-your-baby-smarter-industry/

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I had made the following comments on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution “Get Schooled” blog on September 1, 2015, regarding dyslexia.  I had been a high school Student Support Teach (SST) Chair and a reading specialist.  Link to this “Get Schooled” thread: http://getschooled.blog.ajc.com/2015/08/28/is-georgia-failing-to-test-early-and-often-enough-for-learning-disabilities/?showcomments=true

“One concrete, true example, for you, for reflection.  A student was about to drop out of school at age 17 in the 11th grade.  This student’s psychological test results (administered by the school system upon the SST request) indicated that this student had a severe visual memory problem recalling Dolch Sight Words in written form on 2nd and 3rd grade level.  This was a specific learning disability which caused this student not to be able to read. This student had average intelligence, overall.  This student would never be able to change the phenomena in his brain function that caused the specific visual memory problem.  Dyslexia, in its purest form, simply means “cannot read.”  (See the GDOE link provided by “Ifollowtherulessoshldyou,” under the subheading for “Specific Learning Disabilities,” and then under “dyslexia,”which states this same “definition” in its purest form for dyslexia. Link here: https://www.gadoe.org/Curriculum-Instruction-and-Assessment/Special-Education-Services/Pages/Specific-Learning-Disability.aspx  ) This student was labeled as having a “Specific Learning Disability” and was able to work with Special Education teachers to help compensate for this lifelong disability.  This student graduated from high school at age 20 with a Special Education High School Diploma.  This student did not drop out of school.  That stands on his/her record to this day.  This student is married with 2 (or more) children and was working in a hospital, the last I had heard.

What was important to diagnose, or to assess, with this student was the particular brain function going on in this student’s brain which interfered with being able to read which was severe visual memory impairment with words.  The term “dyslexia” would have been too vague to have addressed this visual memory impairment with compensatory instructional strategies effectively.”


Another poster’s response to my comments, above:

Mary, I don’t need a “true example” of what a child with dyslexia goes through because I live it with my son EVERY day.  Your words are nice, but they helped my son not at all in Gwinnett County.  Whatever the “cause” of a child’s dyslexia, if it is never diagnosed and no interventions are given, they WILL FAIL to reach their true potential.  If children receive no screening, no intervention, no accommodations, they cannot succeed.  And if teachers don’t know what dyslexia symptoms look like, they will not notice it.  My son had ALL the non-reading warning signs of dyslexia, but is highly intelligent (98th percentile on his CogAT).  This allowed him to read up to a point.  In second grade, he was reading two grade levels above his grade.  In third grade, he read one grade level ahead.  In fourth grade, he was reading at grade level.  In other words, he hit a brick wall by third grade and made no progress in reading skills.  His teachers recognized all his “non-reading” dyslexia symptoms as problems – dysgraphia (although we weren’t allowed to call it that since labels are ‘bad’), inability to memorize math facts, inability to memorize spelling words, typos SO bad that even spell check doesn’t pull up the correct words most times, dropping small words like “the, to, it, for, etc” when reading and writing, difficulty memorizing dates for history, forgetting left and right, difficulty tying shoes even in fourth grade, struggling to read aloud which showed in non automatic reading with unknown words randomly guessed at – but never recognized that they were all caused by his dyslexia.  He was given accomodations to help with his issues, but NO intervention because dyslexia wasn’t even on their radar.  He wasn’t diagnosed until we left Gwinnett public schools and enrolled my son in a state funded charter school.  His teacher in fifth grade recognized the warning signs the first week of school.  He is now getting tutoring with an orton-gillingham modeled reading program and his reading has improved dramatically since then.  When I went back to our local public school to see what kind of interventions would be provided for his dyslexia, I was informed NONE.  See, they aren’t required to provide intervention, only accommodation.

My response to that other poster’s comments:

“I agree with your post.  What you have given are concrete specifics regarding your son’s developmental history and you should continue to share it for it needs all of the publicity that his story can engender.  The point of my post was to look at specific – not vague – generalities such as ‘can’t read,’ and you have tackled that.  I am on your side. May I suggest that you provide a link or two for this reading audience regarding the ‘orton-gillingham method,’ which you have found to be successful with your son’s difficulty?

I spent my entire 35 years in public education (through 2006) doing ‘everything in my power to make sure that no . . .children have to suffer. . . in a school model that is designed to let them fall through the cracks.’  We are on the same side.

Keep your hope and courage high.  Have you consulted medical brain specialists, such as neurologists and neurosurgeons, also?”

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