When I was a child or young person

Communist indoctrination
Learning through pain
Teaching as a passion
My father - a child of God
The power of forgiveness
Distress turned into blessing
The challenge of freedom


Communist indoctrination

When I was thirteen, there was Communism in our country. Our teachers had to speak about atheist ideology at school. Some of them reached a very high level in that.

One day there occurred an interesting event. The teacher of History (who was a good atheist) asked us about our faith, and tried to prove that God doesn't exist. One of my classmates answered bravely, "I believe that God made the world." Poor teacher became very excited, so she started to explain about evolution.

While she was drawing on the board, suddenly the chalk broke, and it could have hurt her finger very badly, because a broken piece went underneath her nail. She started to shake her hand, and exclaimed loudly: "Oh, my God, how wrong was it!"

The rest was silence. The children dared only to whisper, “What did she say? ... Why was she calling God?” At that moment, the bell rang.

This story reinforced me in my belief in God's existence. I haven't forgotten that people could ask only God to help in their needs.



Learning through pain

I remember well an event that happened in my childhood, when I was in the first grade of primary school. We had to practice the reading of letters ‘b’ and ‘d’ and in one of the exercises the two letters were standing with their backs to the other as if leaning against each other: ‘db’. I misspelled them and the teacher tweaked my plaits. It was not such a painful tweak but it was rather painful to my soul. This year I teach first form pupils. When I was teaching the letter ‘b’, I felt sick in my stomach because I remembered this childhood event. Later when we learned the letter ‘d’, they said at once: “It’s very much like ‘b’”! Then I told them what had happened to me in my childhood and how I had confused these two letters. I told them not to be afraid because I would deeply understand them if they did the same. I also told them a story with the help of which they can remember the letters more easily.



God can use difficult experiences in the past to help us understand those we teach. He can also use the experiences to shape us for the future. We need to learn how to deal with difficult things. Our ability to practice  forgiveness is developed as we respond to hurts—intentional or unintentional.

Because this incident was forgotten until the parallel experience, it seems that God was using this to prepare the teacher to understand her students. It was preventive medicine, rather than a scar.

Development involves struggle with unpleasant circumstances, personal desires.

Revealing something of yourself to your students can open up relationship.


Teaching as a passion

As far as I remember, I always loved Mathematics, but in the fourth grade we had a new teacher for one year. She was not very young, but tidy, beautiful in a modest way. And how she used to teach! The lessons were enjoyable, we used to laugh a lot and were often excited, we – at least me – were listening all the time so as not to miss a minute. I started to go to Mathematics contests. When I could not sleep I counted. Not sheep – I raised numbers to the second power.  This year – after a long period of teaching only English – I find myself quoting her: “yes, a thorny, difficult question”, “Alas, how she/he is hiding her/his knowledge.” "The monkey will jump into the water right now!” - meaning one will guess something wrongly. I try to teach the children in a heuristic way.



Modeling is very powerful. Even repeated phrases are remembered, especially if they are “eccentric,” unexpected. The age of the teacher isn’t critical in the ability to communicate. Laughter is a critical element in a well-functioning classroom. Our gestures and posture will affect the children as they will become like us – tidy, smiling.

We imitate good teachers from our experience and try to avoid their mistakes. An unusual twist helps capture interest. We are all imitators. We have a responsibility as examples for our children. We don’t always realize how we are imitating others. 


My father - a child of God

When I was an adolescent on a mission trip to the countryside, I asked my dad (who was driving) to tell me how God worked in his life and how he knew God stays faithful.

I expected him to start enumerating a series of Bible verses on God’s faithfulness. Instead what I received was the story of a lifetime filled with experiences that my dad had had with God.

My dad told me, “Though my earthly parents have forsaken me, my God has become my refuge and strength; through him I overcome the impediments of life”.

My dad was an orphan from the age of four, when his mother died and his father wasn’t interested in taking care of him. But to God, this was an opportunity to take hold of my dad, mold him and later on call him into ministry.

My dad became a pastor, a man whose integrity and faithfulness has influenced my life. I often pray that the God of my father would also guide me and carry me through.



The power of forgiveness

Michael, a strapping country lad of 24 years of age and a pre-service student teacher at the college where I teach, made an appointment to see me during Year 4 of his study program. He asked if he could shut my office door, a strategy that I very seldom allow.

He immediately burst into tears with deep sobbing. I comforted him and, after some time, he was able to share the following: “Rob, how can I become a teacher when my Year 3 teacher at primary school told me that ‘I would never amount to anything’?”

My heart went out to him and, as his sobbing subsided, we were able to share about the power of God’s forgiveness (using Scriptures such as Matt 10:32, Romans 10:9&10). Mike was a committed Christian and he shared of the deep hurt that this teacher had caused him for over 15 years. He had always wanted to be a teacher. We prayed together and asked the Lord to heal the hurt that had been done. I particularly asked Mike to pray for forgiveness for the teacher and for healing of the hurt that had been caused. He did so willingly.

Towards the end of the session, I suggested that Mike try to find that teacher who had been living in his home town for many years and let him know that he had forgiven him. Some weeks later, Mike came to see me in my office again. He had found the teacher’s home but had been informed by the teacher’s wife that he had recently died. Mike told the wife his story. She was so pleased that Mike had forgiven her husband but asked for Mike to pray for her as she did not know what to do under the circumstances. On behalf of her late husband, she then asked Mike to forgive him, something which he had already done in his heart and with me in prayer.

Mike is currently teaching in a Christian School. The head-teacher recently told me that Mike is one of the most compassionate and caring teachers that he has ever met.



We need to understand the whole person in all his various aspects and qualities. Mike needed release from the pain and pressure that he had endured for so long. He needed to be ‘set free to learn’.


Distress turned into blessing

We were sitting in a classroom in the high school. The room was too large for the twelve students of our advanced level literature class: an elective course for those planning to carry out higher education studies in the field of humanities. Our teacher was a young, sensitive woman, at the beginning of her career, who couldn’t hide the fact that some teaching situations were emotionally overwhelming for her. In spite of that she was a beloved teacher with compelling knowledge, an obvious passion for her subject, and an authentic Christian personality.

On this morning she was late, which did not surprise us all too much, since we knew that she had been in the middle of a pregnancy burdened with numerous medical complications. I, however, was nervous: I was to deliver a presentation about The Epic of Gilgamesh. When the teacher finally stepped into the classroom she said that she had to see a doctor urgently and would not be able to teach the class. “Tibor”, she turned to me, “Would you mind leading the entire session today? Just give your presentation as planned, and make sure that you all discuss it thoroughly.” With these words she left.

It was absolutely not “as planned”. Planned was a fifteen-minute-long presentation by me, and a thirty-minute discussion led by her; not even to mention that I was actually asked to take the instructor’s position in front of my very own classmates. I’m sure that today I wouldn’t be satisfied with that class discussion I had led back then; on the other hand, I’d be in trouble if I had to deliver even a five-minute presentation aboutGilgamesh here and now – I don’t remember much from the Sumerian heroic poem.

Nevertheless, I do remember some important things from that morning, sometime in the third year of my high school studies. I remember that what started as the shock of my life turned out to be an energizing, uplifting, and life-forming experience. I enjoyed sharing the joy of discovering something, and sharing a little piece of knowledge. I was touched by and very grateful for the trust I had been given by my teacher, as well as my classmates, who played along as if it had been the most self-explanatory thing in the world. (Later the same teacher allowed me to lead a double session in the basic literature course, where I taught my thirty-two classmates about Edgar Allan Poe and his The Masque of the Red Death – an author not even mentioned in the Hungarian literature curricula, whose works, however, really grasp the attention of teenagers.) That morning I learned something about myself as well: I felt that trust motivated me at least as much as the threat of deadlines or tests. That morning I tasted for the first time in my life the wonderful flavour of teaching, and I discovered that mutual trust is an essential element of it.



It is good to be accorded with trust by the teacher and one’s classmates. Fellow students could respect Tibor because the teacher trusted him. Subject matter is of lesser importance.


The challenge of freedom

The Deputy Headmaster, Mr I, at my high school in 1973 was a tough ex-navy war veteran with a fearsome reputation for discipline.  He was also to be my English Level 1 teacher in Year 11.  We had been taught for the previous two years by Mr B: brilliant, funny, inspirational.  We did not look forward to the change.

Mr I set us a task.  The 3,000 words were to be on a project we chose.  What did he want?  He said anything we were interested in.  What was the question?  He said find a point to prove and argue for it.  His guidance consisted of discussing with us whether the task was sufficiently challenging. 

We began work on the various points.  I read more novels for that task than in the rest of my English studies.  We talked to each other about our thinking, with no fear of competition, and produced our best work.

Mr I did not compete with the brilliance of Mr B directly.  He just made it clear that he thought we have interesting things to say and discover and gave us the opportunity to do so.  It was not in the curriculum, but we learnt something more than that, and we did well anyway.