Teaching is about giving young people, especially troublemakers, values and hope, and it is "an injustice" that today's educators are paid so poorly, Pope Francis said.
In a world where it is already difficult for kids to find a decent point of reference, they must find positive guidance from teachers, who "are able to give meaning to school, studying and culture, without reducing it all just to passing on practical knowledge," he said Saturday.
"You have to teach not just about a subject, but also life's values and habits" because when it comes to learning about a subject, "a computer is sufficient, but to understand how to love, to understand what the values and habits are that create harmony in the world, you need a good teacher," he said.
The pope's remarks came during a meeting with members of an Italian association of Catholic teachers, educators and school administrators in the Vatican's Paul VI audience hall.
Addressing those in the audience as "colleagues," the pope recalled his own experience as a teacher, saying teaching "is a really beautiful job" because it lets educators see their students "grow day after day."
However, he said, it was "an injustice" and a "shame that teachers are poorly paid."
"Teaching is a serious commitment that only a mature and well-balanced" person should take on, he added.
Young people expect a teacher to be "a guide, a compass, an answer" as well as someone who asks them "good questions," he said.
The pope called on teachers to reach out to and "love with greater intensity" the kids on "the peripheries" of their school: those who do not like studying, who are labeled as "difficult," who have disabilities, come other countries or face other problems and disadvantages.
"Jesus would say: If you love only those who study or who are well-educated, what merit does that have? There are those who try your patience, but we have to love them even more," the pope said.
In addition to teaching "the contents" of a particular subject, teachers need to build an edifying relationship with all students, "who must feel welcomed and loved for who they are, with all their limits and potential."
The pope encouraged teachers to renew their love for humanity because "you can't teach without passion" and he asked they be "witnesses of life and hope. Never, ever close the door, open all of them wide so that students will have hope."