Are You an Intentional Christian Teacher? Part Deux
Bruce Atteberry

Are You an Intentional Teacher? Part Deux
Bruce Atteberry
Assistant Middle School Principal
The Holy Spirit spoke through the prophet Ezekiel addressing the priests of the nation of Israel. By inspiration of the Holy Spirit Ezekiel wrote, “He shall teach my people the difference between what is holy and what is secular, what is right and what is wrong” (Ez. 44:23, TLB). In the New Testament, Peter under inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote, “But you are not like that, for you have been chosen by God himself—you are priests of the King, you are holy and pure, you are God’s very own—all this so that you may show to others how God called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Pet. 2:9, TLB). To put the second quote in context, the phrase “But you are not like that” refers back to the previous verses speaking of people who will stumble because they did not listen to God’s Word.
The upshot of all this is that because of Jesus we, as believers in Jesus Christ, are now “priests.” This makes what Ezekiel wrote more pertinent to us. As intentional Christian teachers we are now set in a position of influence and represent the authority of God in our classroom. As discussed in Part 1, there are six aspects to being an intentional Christian teacher. The third aspect is “The intentional Christian teacher will have a knowledge of his or her students and how their students learn.” This refers to the psychological research of Piaget, Kohlberg, Vygotsky, and Maslow; but it also has reference to how these different phases of development of learning from infancy to adulthood are referenced in the scripture.
Lawrence Kohlberg lined his Stages of Moral Development with the developmental theory of Piaget whose research has been touted by educational psychologists over the years. Piaget basically divided
the aspects of moral judgment by two age groupings: 11 years of age and younger and 12 years of age and older. While Piaget basically found four stages of development, Kohlberg identified six stages through his research. Kohlberg's focus was not on the child's ”yes or no” in response to a question, but his research was based on reasoning behind the answer.
These two men form a base for educational psychology that has stood the test of time. Piaget's model is used in many preschool and elementary school programs. There is also a basis for both of these men's work found in the Bible. It is commonly recognized by those who have contact with children there can be a significant difference in the way students respond to certain situations and circumstances. While this is true with adults also, the differences are more easily recognizable in the lives of students who come into middle school in grade 6 and leave middle school in grade 8.
The biblical application of both Piaget's and Kohlberg's work is found in the Greek words translated as child and son in the New King James version of the Bible. These four words are nepios, paidion, teknon, and huios. For this session we will look at the first two biblical terms: nepios and paidion. If teachers could understand how these intertwine into the life of the child, it could reveal how and why students respond the way they do. Each of us is in the process of growing in Christ. We, as adults, respond to situations and circumstances differently than do younger people; partly due to life experiences and partly due to maturity. Just as one matures in the area of human reasoning and emotions; the Christian matures in his or her relationship with God through accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. First Corinthians 15:46 - 49 says, "However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly man.” So we could summarize this with the idea that as it is in the natural then so it is in the spiritual.
Each person on Earth has come via natural birth or "born of water." As such, each person begins his or her life as an infant. One of the many characteristics babies have in common is that of not being able to speak. The Greek word, nepios, according to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, carries the meaning of "not speaking, i.e. an infant, babe, childish; and by inference a simple minded person, an immature Christian.” The nepios is not able to really express their needs and, therefore, looks to others to fill any needs they may have. In another application, these are the "new" Christians that are learning about their relationship with God. These are the ones soaking in the word, feeding during the services, and growing in their relationship with Jesus Christ and God, the Father. We have many of these students in our classrooms. They don't know how to divulge what they need and they are looking for help.
The next level of Christian maturity is denoted by the Greek word paidion. This particular term is reflected in the natural man in the ages of 1 1/2 to 3 or 4. The corresponding characteristics per the Piaget paradigm are found in the Pre-operational Stage. At this stage of the Piaget model, children have a tendency to be egocentric. They are learning how to manipulate in the natural world. During this age range the child is learning to walk, talk, contact the environment in many different ways, and transition to being completely dependent upon the environment from being completely dependent upon another to functioning (within certain limits) on their own in discovering their world.
The spiritual implications for this are found when the person recognizes the fact they are a "sinner." There is an awakening to the concept of accountability to higher power or moral authority. While not all people recognize the idea of a Creator, many do begin to come to the realization there is a "higher power." There is recognition of the sinful nature of man, but this also starts the concept of guilt for wrong actions. For some people the "feeling" of guilt resulting from sin results in the "blaming" of God for all things that
happen; whether for the good or for the bad.
The progression in the natural has run from infant to toddler. Growth in the natural comes to each one as well as growth in the spiritual realm. The infant learns to roll over, reaches out to touch things, and eventually rises to his or her hands and knees to crawl. The infant goes from crawling to pulling up on things and balancing on his own 2 feet. These actions result in other transitions in the child's life. The first step of the infant changes him or her to the toddler. While those first steps may be a little wobbly at first, the more the toddler practices the more stable he or she is and the farther he or she can go. This is much the same in the Christians walk with God. The new Christian may not know exactly the "proper" words to say to God, but knows that God is there and caring. The infant Christian begins to walk, maybe a little unstable at first, but then as growth progresses becomes able to stand and walk In the Way, Paul describes the Christian life in Ephesians.
Our charge as an intentional Christian teacher is to help our students’ transition from being a nepios to being paidion. We need to recognize our students are not at the level we are. We need to hold them accountable for what they do. We need to train them in what they should do. Just as a parent, hopefully, is training his or her child; we are held accountable according to Ezekiel 44:23 to teach those in our classrooms the difference between the holy and the secular and the difference between right and wrong. This is done by placing a strong Christian worldview in our classrooms. We must integrate the Bible into what we teach. Our students need to be taught to filter all the information they receive through Scriptural glasses.
Our charge is not an easy one, but it is an important one. You as a Christian school teacher are truly a living curriculum for your students. They see how you'll react to any situation. They see how you react to the administration, change, and other situations in your life. The reality is you may be "the only Bible your student reads." We have a responsibility as intentional Christian teachers to help our students and to prepare our students for life outside the four walls of our classroom. We have them perhaps one or two hours a day; but we see them seven or eight hours a day. As intentional Christian teachers we need to provide an atmosphere in which they can be successful.