Teaching as Modeling

(Prayer offered for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Wednesday morning, 8 April 2015)

Let us pause and remember we are in God’s holy presence.


Projected on the screen in front of you is one of my favorites. It is called “The Banjo Lesson,” and it was painted by Henry Ossawa Tanner in 1893. Tanner was an African-American gentleman born in 1859. He spent most of his professional life studying and painting in Paris, but this, his most famous work, was painted on a return trip to Philadelphia.

What we see is an old man teaching a young boy to play the banjo. Maybe it’s a grandpa and grandson. What I love about the painting is the WAY the grandfather is teaching. There is no textbook. There is no PowerPoint. He is not scolding the young musician as he struggles to play. The grandson is standing up between the grandfather’s knees, the grandfather sitting on a stool and playing the chords while his grandson learns to strum. Granddad is empowering him, letting him think he is playing, which he is, while the grandpa takes care of the rest. Step by step, for many more hours than this painting could possibly show, grandpa shares his passion with his grandson. And that is teaching at hits best.

Yesterday we celebrated the Feast of St. John Baptist de La Salle, a master teacher in his own right. I like to think that De La Salle would have appreciated this painting and spent hours meditating upon it.


For our purposes this morning, I want to take a moment to reflect specifically on grandpa’s style of teaching. Have we ever had a teacher show this much patience, this much care in teaching you a lesson? What people in your life have taught by showing and doing in tandem, by modeling a behavior for you? Who taught you what it means to be a good person? Who taught you how to show compassion to those in need? Who taught you to pray? Who taught you to love? My guess is it wasn’t in a book or lecture but in Word made flesh, like this old man teaching the banjo to his grandson.


Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, thank you for John Baptist de La Salle and all the teachers in our lives who have showed us what to do and how to do it in word and deed, modeling lives of discipleship for us to imitate.
St. John Baptist de La Salle…pray for us.
Live Jesus in our hearts…forever.
Matt Daly–Director of Campus Ministry