During this year’s Edifide Convention, speakers like Andy Crouch, Noah Toly, and Karen Swallow Prior shared their wisdom, expertise and passion with Christian educators from across Eastern Canada.
Held from October 30th-31st at Redeemer University College in Ancaster, The 2015 Edifide Convention, entitled “Purpose Power and Potential”, offered workshops from strands such as Leadership, Culture & Character, Workplace & Development, Masters of Knowledge and Skills, Beautiful Work, and Healthy Living. In each case, the aim was to have educators collaborate, converse and learn from each other—both as leaders and as students.
The event began with a keynote address delivered by author and speaker Andy Crouch, who offered his audience some insightful ideas about the connection between power, authority, and vulnerability.
Crouch started by reflecting on two very different creation stories—a Babylonian creation myth involving two warring demi-gods, and the creation story as it appears in Genesis 1. He pointed out that unlike the Babylonian account, where the role of power is ultimately rooted in violence, God’s power in the Genesis story is both creative and life giving in nature.
What was of special importance to Crouch was that God used his creative power to make a world characterized by both order and abundance: there are days when he separated (sea from land, heaven from earth) and when his handwork was characterized by extravagance. God filled the heavens with stars more numerous than we can imagine, waters brought forth swarms of living creatures, air and land teemed with creatures.
Crouch invited teachers to make room for both of those creational norms in the classroom (creating boundaries and structure where needed, and allowing for a measure of unpredictability, too). He went as far to say that the flourishing of students depends on this collaborative (never coercive) dance of order and abundance.
Crouch’s ideas came up in many of the workshops that followed throughout the conference. These workshops were diverse, engaging, and designed to inspire as much as they challenged, and were applicable to educators with a broad range of interests. In Jason Schouten’s session about “Grit”, teachers were urged to re-evaluate how they go about praising their students (the key being to praise children for their efforts, instead of their inherent smarts or abilities). A panel discussion called “On Care for Our Common Home”, invited educators to consider how to engage students in issues related to creation care.
Reflecting on the importance of environmental education, Luke Wilson of A Rocha Hamilton, made a case for experiential learning—“it’s a way of tasting and seeing” he said, “cultivating wonder and fondness for God’s creation, which points us back to God.
Other workshop topics included flipped classrooms, expeditionary learning (complete with a kayaking excursion), anecdotal assessment, student leadership, Google Drive, alumni relations, and more.
Thursday ended with a keynote delivered by Dr. Noah Toly, Director of the Center for Urban Engagement at Wheaton College. Dr. Toly was awarded the first ever Public Intellectual Award from the Centre for Christian Scholarship—an organization that partnered with Redeemer University College in hosting this year’s Edifide Convention.
During his address, he challenged schools to create students who can enter the sphere of public engagement.
“We need to teach students to listen and read well,” he said. “To understand the contours of public deliberation and to discern the consequence for the common good in those discussions. We need to teach them to speak and write as part of those discussions.”
“Above all,” he continued, “we must be able to teach them to ask good questions and to frame challenges well.”
He also emphasized the importance of courage—a virtue that students will need as they contribute to discussions happening among groups that don’t agree with their point of view. Toly added that the virtues of faith, hope and love are also key.
“Faith draws us in to the great questions and mysteries of the human condition, the challenges of contemporary issues,” he explained. “It helps us to enter into those conversations with the resources of the Christian tradition and without fear.”
Toly went on to note that Christian education should be vibrant and full precisely because of that tradition.
“Christian education isn’t about making sure that something happening in other areas of education doesn’t happen in our schools” he said. “Or that certain questions that happen in other sorts of schools aren’t asked in ours. It’s about bringing to those questions the resources of the Christian tradition that are so enriching to the conversation.”
The conference, as a whole, came to a close with a final keynote by Andy Crouch, who reminded educators in Christian schools that they have an important job ahead of them—that is, to increase the possibility of both vulnerability and risk-taking in learning. He also had an important message for leaders: namely, that there is no way to have authority without risk, and that every leader must be willing to give up their power for flourishing.
With another convention come and gone, teachers now have the chance to put new ideas into action and work through some of the wisdom they absorbed. If social media is any indication, they’re up for the challenge.
“Such a good time of filling up so that we can pour out into our schools and students,” wrote David Grills in a tweet describing the event. His words were in response to Andy Crouch—who, with honest gratitude, described his experience at the convention this way:
“Had a brilliant time with the teachers of #edifide at @RedeemerUC in Ontario this week. Thank you, friends!”