Principle 20 in my book 'Pedagogy and Education for Life: A Christian Reframing of Teaching, Learning, And Formation' seems relatively straightforward. In full, I ask 'Do our pedagogical practices demonstrate a relationship between education and discipleship?' It should, but in some classrooms, it might seem of limited relevance to the teacher. To hold the latter view would be a grave mistake, for if Christian schools aren’t created to enable the discipling of our students to know God, then we are left with just another school that helps children to learn and be successful in life. If this is the limit of the school vision, why bother? We might as well just make our State schools stronger by rejoining them. The reality is that Christian schools have grown in number in Australia because people of faith want their children to have an educational experience that teaches them that God is of central importance in their lives. Every teacher in a Christian school is called to be a disciple of Christ seeking to guide their students to be disciples also. Our role is not simply to educate our students to take their place in a 'cookie' cutter world of work.
God revealed himself to us through his Son to become his disciples, and in turn, expects us to make disciples (Matt 28:18–20; 2 Tim 2:2). So, the way we structure our classrooms and our activities, should offer and promote opportunities for reflection on our faith and what this means for our lives. A key challenge is for our classrooms and schools to be much more than simply places sustaining fierce individual achievement and competition. The Apostle Paul challenged the church in Rome to have a sacrificial approach to life, and a desire to share our faith and seek to make Christ known.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Rom 12:1-2).
So, what is our priority?
Just as the Apostle Paul challenged the church in Rome to be sacrificial disciples, so too Christian teachers are to do likewise and to urge our students to consider the same path. We need to ask ourselves, are we seeking maturity in our students as God transforms and renews their minds?
Do the things we say, and the priorities we demonstrate, show that we see our true citizenship as in heaven? And do we want them to do likewise? Or is our pedagogy directed towards and devoted to simply promoting the achievements and benefits of this world without regard for the next?
How seriously do we seek biblical understanding and apply it to our roles as teachers? Where does our love of God and his word sit in relation to our educational knowledge, the views of parents, national curricula, and so on? Can our knowledge of education be supported and informed by our faith and biblical knowledge? I’m convinced that the answer is yes, and that if this isn’t a priority for Christian teachers, we might just as well move back to the state school system.
The last word?
While this is the 20th and final Principle that has shape the pedagogy in my book and educational philosophy outlined, I intend to continue to do posts that cut across topics and issues. These will relate much more to classroom case studies and will be more practical in nature. So, don’t check out just yet! There is much more to discuss.