He may prohibit divorce and condemn abortions. But, on one point, the Pope’s infallibility can be undoubted: he thinks that teachers are grievously underpaid.
Pope Francis has said that it is “an injustice” that teachers are paid so poorly. Speaking to members of an Italian association of teachers and school administrators, the former teacher said: “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.”
In Argentina, where the Pope was born and taught, many teachers have to take on double shifts merely to earn a decent wage, he said. But, he added: “What state will a teacher be in, after a double shift?”
As a young man, Pope Francis taught literature at the Jesuit-run School of the Immaculate Conception in the Argentinian city of Santa Fe. A former student has said that the Pope, then known as Father Bergoglio, worked hard to challenge, inspire and encourage his pupils.
He also told his pupils to read existentialist and left-wing writers, so that they would be capable of analysing and understanding different arguments, the Pope’s erstwhile student Jorge Milia said. Father Bergoglio also encouraged a group of pupils who wanted to form a Beatles tribute band, Mr Milia added.
“You must not teach just content, but the values and customs of life,” the Pope told the Italian teachers, during a meeting at the Vatican last Saturday. “A computer can teach content. Instead…you must transmit: how to love, how to understand which values and customs create harmony in society. For that, we need good teachers.”
The Pope was addressing the teachers’ union on the occasion of its 70th anniversary.
Pontificating to his guests, Pope Francis said that working as a teacher was similar to being a spiritual parent to pupils. “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,” he said. “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.”
This is particularly true when teachers are dealing with difficult children, he said: “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.
“I ask you to love ‘difficult’ students more. There are some who really try our patience, but we have to love them more: those who do not want to study, those who find themselves in difficult conditions, the disabled and the foreigners, who today pose a great challenge for schools.”
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