Are You an Intentional Christian Teacher?
Assistant Middle School Principal
So, have you reviewed your teaching “style” lately? Maybe you have been teaching for a long time, have all your material just the way you want it, and are really set in how you manage your classroom. Perhaps you are a newer teacher (three years or less) and are still trying to figure out exactly how you want to teach your class to get the most out of the material for your students, or you consider yourself in the middle of these brackets. In the next few weeks I hope to awaken in you a “new hope” that all students can learn.
If you teach, you fit into one of these scenarios, and, hopefully, you desire to be considered an “intentional” Christian teacher. The intentional Christian teacher does things for a purpose. The activities in the classroom are based upon the outcomes they want to achieve and the learning to be demonstrated by the students.
The Bible Example
Jesus was an “intentional” teacher. Everything He did and everything He taught had a purpose. He taught on healing and people were healed. He taught on forgiveness of sin and people were forgiven of their sin. He taught on the authority of the believer and faith was conceived in the hearts of those who heard His words. He taught by the principle of Luke 6:40, “A disciple (student) is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.”
One area where Jesus was so successful is the identification of His audience. He knew what instruction the person listening to Him needed in order to get the most out of what He said. Whether it was a touch, or a special word, or a combination of both, Jesus knew how to reach His audience (disciples and humanity).
To be a successful teacher, we have to know our audience. For those of us who took undergraduate
education programs we learned about the studies of Piaget, Vygotsky, Kohlberg, and Maslow. Jesus already knew about the pedagogy these men took years to research and study. Jesus knew about human development as He created us. Jesus knew about the three determinisms of psychology: genetic, environmental, and psychic. Jesus knew about educational psychology because He knew that His “student” had to grow and mature in the things of God. Jesus knew of man’s shortcomings and knew how to help man overcome them.
So, if Jesus knew all these things “way back then” how come we are still “struggling” in some ways to connect what we teach in our classroom to create relevancy in our students’ lives. There are times when we need to do some things that we may have “forgotten” or sometimes we do things without really being cognizant of what we are doing. We really do desire to be the best teacher we can be and to provide for our students the best instruction and the byproduct of best education.
Aspects of Intentional
The “intentional Christian teacher” will show six aspects of good teaching. 1) The intentional Christian teacher will have knowledge of his or her subject and use current teaching resources. 2) The intentional Christian teacher will model critical thinking and problem-solving skills to his or her students. 3) The intentional Christian teacher will have knowledge of his or her students and how the students learn. 4) The intentional Christian teacher will demonstrate pedagogy and communication skills using “best practice” in presentation of learning to students in the classroom. 5) The intentional Christian teacher will fully integrate the Bible into each lesson. 6) The intentional Christian teacher will reflect in his or her life one of the most powerful predictors of the teacher’s impact on students; the belief that what the teacher does will make a difference in the student’s life.
The “intentional Christian teacher” will be modeling teacher efficacy. Bandura (1997) wrote that a teacher who does not believe his or her own efforts is a key to student’s learning is not as effective a teacher as the one who believes his or her consistent effort, persistence in the face of obstacles, and relentless pursuit of student success. Jesus never gives up on us, so why should we give up on those under our tutelage. As an intentional Christian teacher we need to be ready to do all we can to help a student. All the teachers in the elementary school, or middle school, or high school can attain a collective efficacy if they work together toward a common goal. This is accomplished by working together to examine practices, outcomes, seeking professional development, and helping each other to succeed.
Intentional Christian teachers achieve a sense of efficacy by assessing the results of instruction, trying new strategies, seeking ideas from colleagues, and other avenues of professional development. Intentional Christian teachers realize they may be the only Bible their student may read. The intentional Christian teacher is a living curriculum, modeling for the student how Jesus revealed for the Christian to live his or her life.
In addition to all this, as if this was not enough, the intentional Christian teacher is an amateur psychologist. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 tells us that people are a three-part being, spirit (pneuma), soul (psyche), and body (soma). The intentional Christian teacher can touch the spirit, may help the body, but we do affect the soul (mind, will, and emotions). This mind is the realm where we try to impart knowledge to reflect understanding to incorporate wisdom. As we can tell with many students we deal quite frequently with the mind, will, and emotions of our students, sometimes seemingly simultaneously.
Progression in Maturity
Occasionally in our classrooms we see some behaviors that we think, “Where did that come from?” “I thought that _____ was more mature than that.” “Don’t they know how to handle that situation?” “What were they thinking, anyway?” “I don’t understand. I have given them this information time after time after time. I review so much I don’t think I taught anything else for a long time.” “Aren’t they ever going to get this concept?” “I’ve tried ‘everything’ I know to do to help this student and he or she just can’t seem to get it.” This is where frustration begins to set in as a teacher.
If we think we are frustrated, how do we think the student feels?
Just as there is a progression in maturity in human development, there is a progression in maturity in the spiritual development of a person. Sometimes, students are just not as “mature” as we think they should be. This seeming “lack” of maturity, either spiritually or cognitively or emotionally, causes frustration on the part of the teacher. We really want our students to succeed.
The Need to be Successful
I was watching one of my favorite comedy groups one day. One of them gave the following quote, “If at first you don’t succeed, keep on succing ‘til you do succeed.” We have some students who have never really “tasted” success in the classroom. There are myriad reasons for this and no real “blame” to be imputed to any one particular person, but you can sometimes see the student just wants to be successful at something. This drive for success may cause them to draw attention to themselves for behavior issues because they cannot find success academically. The behavior is the only way they can draw some attention.
The intentional Christian teacher is anointed to help the gifted student grow. The intentional Christian teacher is anointed to help the struggling student learn. The intentional Christian teacher is able to draw from the Holy Spirit and develop an instructional plan that will meet the need of the average student. There is no one-size-fits-all instructional strategy. Jesus did not minister to those around Him the same way. He did not always minister healing, although that was a majority of His ministry on earth. He was able by His compassion for those around Him to see the difference in people.
The intentional Christian teacher prays for his or her students. The intentional Christian teacher allows the Holy Spirit to show him or her what a student needs. The intentional Christian teacher follows best practice, prepares lessons for diverse student population, and is supportive of the other teachers. When Jesus called His disciples He said to them, “Follow Me.” We as intentional Christian teachers need to follow Jesus. The word “follow” means to “imitate,” so we need to imitate Jesus in our classrooms and hallways.