[Some of these thoughts can be attributed to a devotional that Mario Matos, the Director of COCREF (Colegios Cristianos Reformados) schools in the Dominican Republic led us in last week.]
What are the stories that students today dream about? What fascinates them? Who do they pretend to be? What are the dominant themes in their imagination? The answers to these questions help us to understand our students and give us ways to ask bigger questions for them. Christian education needs to be focused first and foremost on our students becoming who God created them to be through education and its experiences. Christian educators play a role in the faith development of students who are entrusted to our care.
The question we educators face is how to honour our students as image-bearers and to help them see God’s faithful presence in the world that surrounds us. The Biblical narrative, Scripture, the way we are created—all of these things tell the story of who we are, who we are meant to be and how we ought to live with our neighbours (locally and globally). Even though the dominant stories in our culture seem to be about individualism, power, money and fame, somehow the values of community, self-sacrifice, sharing and doing the right thing also have prominence, and we can help our students look beyond themselves to develop these qualities. Exploring what justice looks like, becoming global citizens and capacity builders in others, considering environmental issues and the imbalance of first world markets; all these things can be grounded in the story of who we are as children of God, thriving in communities, loving meaningful work, flourishing as loved participants in learning. We teach students of character who believe in truth, faith, respect, empathy, working hard, sharing, and listening to and honouring others.
What are the practices in your classroom? How do you embody the “way we are together”? Have you classroom norms? Are we proactively naming the ways that we expect our students to be? Could we include our students’ voices in framing how we ought to live together in our classrooms and our schools? School is always about learning, but it cannot be only about content and knowledge: it is incumbent on all of us to help our students grow as people, image-bearers of God, as citizens of the world, as people of character. Can we continue to create learning experiences where students not only learn new material but also learn to become competent, courageous people of faith?
James K. A. Smith, in his book “Desiring the Kingdom”, talks about developing students who are “peculiar.” These students know that most of what they are sold in our culture, and by extension in the media, is not really “real.” They are students who are more interested in developing relationships with one another and with their communities and neighbourhoods, in caring for those who are less fortunate and who are willing to work for justice and shalom. This is the way of Christ, the way to image-bearing.
Blessings to each of you as you work towards the embodiment of the Kingdom of God!