Everyone has their own school history. For some, schools, classrooms, peers, teachers, or other contexts such as their biological family, have not been safe places. To offer a Christian environment, we seek to understand the environment of our own classrooms, and how our own history and presence contributes to this in healthy or unhealthy ways.
A school or classroom becomes unsafe when the individual person is forgotten. Education has lost sight of its Christian mission when: a concern for morality is stronger than the love of Christ within us for sinners; our own vision or will takes priority over the vision of Christ and His devotion to the will of God; we are more concerned with making our point than about the ministry of the Holy Spirit; teaching content becomes more important than teaching persons; external goals are achieved at the expense of the person; and our teaching is not an act of worship.
The classroom itself is a fertile learning environment in many ways. Groups are normative and have great power in shaping the values, behaviour and identities of individual group members. In groups individuals are exposed (even the quiet ones, or those who succeed in “hiding”) and known. Much is learned through these experiences, some of which may need to be unlearned. The transformational educator expects God to work in the details and moments of the classroom. The classroom is a deeply personal place.
I remember when I began Grade 1. I was suddenly in a new language and culture. I lived in terror of being shamed. My Grade 2 teacher was out-of-control and chased naughty students around the classroom with her pointer stick. In Grade 3 I experienced bullying. It got better over the years and I had many good teachers. But in general, the classroom was for me more a place of fear than love, of manipulation than nurture.
Any classroom environment represents a mix of cultures, whether obvious or subtle. Much must be learned about differing learning styles and expectations. As agents of God’s great mission to all the peoples of the world we critique and assess our own culture as well as the cultures of our students. We desire that Christ and our teaching will be presented to our students in ways that will most effectively reach them in their context. We celebrate the many cultures while discerning sin inherent in them all.
Affirmation, confirmation (“It feels so good to know that you have a similar experience; I always thought I was the only one…”), fellowship (how good to know we are not alone), correction, true growth in learning to connect on multiple levels with others, released creativity, the power of one (when all are united on one purpose or project), the joy and laughter and fun of friendship, the comfort and rest of a safe place, forgiveness, healing and reconciliation, the liberating power of truth in love… all this and more is waiting to be released wherever Jesus is in the classroom.
VP for Human Resources
This article is reprinted from Howard’s blog series Dying to Live.