The pedagogy of Don Bosco may be re-named for our times as the ‘pedagogy of expression’ because it is a system of education that is designed to enable a student to grow fully and freely into the kind of person he or she is ‘meant’ to be. Don Bosco himself called his educative method ‘the preventive system’ – a name he chose to contrast it with the ‘repressive system’ in vogue during his time. The latter was a type of education that used fear of punishment as the basis for control. In contrast, Don Bosco’s preventive method would seek to ‘prevent’ the very need for punishment by placing the child in an environment in which he/she is encouraged to choose the ‘good’ rather than the ‘bad’. In positive terms, this environment would create a healthy, congenial and friendly atmosphere in order to elicit the best that a student can offer – his/her complete self-expression.

The roots or the invisible principles of Don Bosco’s ‘system of expression’ are ‘Rapport’, ‘Religion’ and ‘Reason’, while the trunk or visible body of this educational method is ‘Presence’. These are the four principles of his educational system.

This ‘presence’ of the teacher in the life of the student is the epitome of Don Bosco’s educative system. For rapport, religion and reason to be truly lived out with one’s students, teachers have to be present in a way that is qualitative. This calls for a type of presence that has the following characteristics:

1. A Motivating Presence: One that infuses enthusiasm, encouragement and optimism. The presence of the educator infuses in the child a thirst for knowledge through the tactful use of queries, experiments, and exposure to new and educative environments.

2. A Personal Presence: The presence of the teacher is such that each child feels known, loved and accepted. This is all the more essential when relating to children having different levels of intelligence who are weak, differentlyabled and underprivileged.

3. An Incarnational Presence: As explained under the section on ‘rapport’, loving what your students love or ‘getting under their skin’ has an important purpose: seeing the world through their eyes will make them want to experience the world and the values you live by.

4. A Creative Presence: That is open to the joy of discovery. Life is too rich, too precious, too varied to be experienced between the fine print of cold textbooks or within the walls of classrooms. Being open to discovery means being ready to try new ways, new solutions, and new ideas. Risk is a necessary ingredient of all creative learning.

5. A Preventive and Corrective Presence: Students are prone to forget rules. Being there with them would help prevent exposure to harm. Furthermore, timely reminders do help. But these reminders must be respectful of the offender. A presence that instil’s fear and punishment does more harm than good. In his letter to his Salesians, Don Bosco advised:
“My sons, how often in my long career has this great truth come home to me! It is so much easier to get angry than to be patient, to threaten children rather than persuade them. I would even say that usually it is so much more convenient for our own impatience and pride to punish them than to correct them patiently with firmness and gentleness.” (Letters of John Bosco, 201)