Monday, 4 February 2019

Developing Humble Learners: Principle 6

In this post, I want to consider principle 6 in my pedagogical framework, 'God made us as creatures who learn', yet another distinctive of a Christian pedagogy that doesn't seem to be linked very often with success in the world. God's plan for us was that we should be 'humble learners'. Now, while humans are not unique as creatures capable of learning, this characteristic is one that only humans seem to possess. In spite of what E.B. White might have suggested in 'Charlotte's Web', the cunning rat, and the plump barnyard pig are not capable of displaying humility. Nor would it necessarily be in their best interests to do so. In fact, humility isn't a trait that is terribly obvious in many people, let alone children. But principle 6 in my pedagogical framework suggests that the Christian teacher should be seeking to 'develop humble learners'.

As a small child I spent many hours with my grandfather, Alexander Linton. I would follow him around as he did business with others, built a holiday house, or as he repaired all manner of things. My mother's father was a very smart man. From 1920s to 1963 he ran his own business, taught himself how to build radios and later televisions, studied accountancy through the London International Correspondence School and was a leader in his community. If anything needed fixing (cars, radios, televisions, appliances etc), or any problem required some wisdom, the locals would find their way to my grandfather's door.

As a child of 8-12 years old I would talk and natter away as he'd do his work. I'd also at times, offer him some advice about the latest problem. In response, one statement he would gently use quite often when I was making my many suggestions was as follows:

"Son, what I know about this topic I could write on the back of a postage stamp. What you know, you could write on the head of a pin."  

In his own unique way, my grandfather was trying to teach me about humility. There are many places that we can go to in the Bible that speak of the need for humility to be part of the character of the Christian. It is of course the opposite of pride and is a trait that reflects an understanding that compared with the God of the universe we are inconsequential. 1 Peter 5:6-7 reminds us that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. We are to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Col 3:12).   Scripture also suggests that many good things flow from the person who demonstrates humility, including:
  • Respect for elders (1 Peter 5:5)
  • Forgiveness (2 Chron 7:14)
  • Favour with God (Prov 3:34)
  • Wisdom (Prov 11:2)
  • Honour (Prov 18:12)
  • God teaching us his way (Psalm 25:9)
In a Christian school where humility is cultivated and encouraged, we will look beyond things such as intellectual or life achievements, to the depth and character of our students. And of course, as we teach our students in classrooms and schools where there is an ongoing effort to seek and encourage humility in our learners, they will be different! And if the gospel of Christ is central to all that we do in our Christian schools, then we will be offering the perfect example of true humility - Jesus himself! Jesus provides the perfect example of true humility (Philippians 2:1-8):

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 
rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, 
being made in human likeness. 
And being found in appearance as a man, 
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! 
If Christ is at the centre of our school communities, then they will be very special, with a pedagogy that is truly Christian.

For more details, see my new book (available in hard cover, paperback or Kindle):

'Pedagogy and Education for Life: A Christian Reframing of teaching, learning, and formation' (Wipf & Stock, 2018).

Or, if in Australia HERE