While Rapport, Reason and Religion are basic principles of Don Bosco’s Way (which is a combination of the Preventive and Expressive methods of educating) they are lived out concretely, in a determinate place, at a particular time, through a network of resourceful collaborators, for a specific group of youngsters. Such an emphasis on localising education is an important detail of Don Bosco’s Way.

The educational locus that holds out the potential for holistic growth, for happiness and holiness, is in the here and now – not in what was, what will be or what could be. This concrete way of being-fully-with the student is called 'presence'. In its most profound sense, presence means being fully in this place and at this time as “a sign and bearer of the love of God for young people” (Salesian Constitutions, 1997, 16)  Aware of this great privilege and responsibility, the educator in Don Bosco’s Way considers encounters with young people as rich opportunities for holistic growth.

Here are some characteristics of this endearing presence:

1. It is a presence that welcomes. Educators are pro-active and ready to take the first step in making new acquaintances. They are hospitable and homely. They ensure that even the institutional environment communicates this open-arms approach.

2. It is a presence that motivates and encourages. It is enthusiastic and optimistic. The students are enticed to learn, to search and to discover. The presence of the teacher infuses in them a thirst for knowledge through the tactful use of queries, puzzles, quizzes, debates, excursions, simulation games, role-plays, etc.

3. It is a presence that is personal and caring with a special concern for those in need. Each student is called by name, feels known, loved, respected and accepted. This is all the more essential with those who are poor, weak, physically and mentally challenged or socially marginalised.

4. It is a presence that is ‘incarnational’ and based on sound moral values. ‘Loving what one's students love’ or ‘getting into their shoes’ has a purpose. Seeing the world through their eyes will entice them to experience the values the educator lives by.

5. It is a presence that is creative and open to discovery. Life is too rich, too precious, too diversified to be experienced between the fine print of a cold text book. Being open to discovery means being ready to try new ways, new solutions, new ideas. Risk is essential to creative learning.

6. It is a presence that networks with others for the benefit of young people. Don Bosco's uniqueness lay in his ability to involve all people of good will around a common project. Besides the Salesian Society, he set up a world-wide family of consecrated sisters, cooperators, past pupils and lay volunteers. His benefactors included businessmen, government officials and even the Pope. He spent his whole life involving others for the benefit of poor and abandoned youth.

Art: Nino Musio