- What if (Christian) education is not primarily about the absorption of ideas and information, but about the formation of hearts and desires?
- What if (Christian) education was primarily concerned with shaping our hopes and passions –our visions of the ‘good life’?
- What if the primary work of (Christian) education was the transforming of our imagination rather than the saturation of our intellect?
- What if we began by appreciating how education not only gets into our head but also (and more fundamentally) grabs us by the gut – what the New Testament refers to as kardia, “the heart”?
I remember the very day I read these “what if” statements for the first time in Jamie Smith’s book, Desiring the Kingdom. I was convicted – convicted to unlearn and relearn how to teach within this deep hope for learning in our Christian schools.
Like most journeys that require ‘letting go of the old’ to make room ‘for the new,’ it has been invigorating… and exhausting, inspiring… and exhausting, liberating….and full of joy! As I grappled, I began to understand that I had received an invitation from Jamie Smith to a better story, a deeper story of Christian education. As Donald Miller writes in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, “and once you live a good story, you get a taste for that kind of meaning in life, and you can’t go back to being normal; you can’t go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time.”
You see, as a secondary science teacher, I had told, and sold, myself a lot of stories. Science is hard. Science in rigorous. Science is not for everyone. We have a lot of content to cover…and it is ALL essential. The day I encountered these “what if” statements, was the day I began to re-awaken myself to the better story – it was the day that I began to stop treating these image bearers of God, my students, like they were simply ‘thinking humans’ and began a journey to discover how to nurture desiring and passionate students within a curriculum that is ‘dripping with God.’
And as my posture and practices around curriculum began to change, I began to change. You see, practices are not just something we do, practices do something to us.
So, maybe you are like me. Maybe, like me, you are living in the tension of competing stories around the curriculum, the stuff of our courses and classes. You have classrooms of image bearers – desiring, passionate, creative image bearers of God, and you have heaps and heaps of stuff to cover. Maybe, like me, you have told, and sold, yourself stories about curriculum and learning. Maybe, like me, you have become really good at wrong things. Maybe, like me, in the busyness of school, and the need to cover the content, you have forgotten the story we, you, our students were created for. Maybe, like me, you have forgotten the deep hopes for our students and our Christian schools.
This secondary science teacher has learned that the data, the analysis, facts and diagrams, theories and laws, the ‘stuff’ of science class is meaningless without the context of the EPIC story that we are born into.
Our curriculum finds its meaning and purpose within God’s unfolding story: a story of intimacy and things good and beautiful, rebellion and brokenness, BUT an invitation from the cross to participate, to co-create with our creator, in the restoration of a broken world, in the making of all things new. Deeper learning is deeper into this story.
Those nitrate and phosphate measurements in the stream study? – part of this story of making all things new again. The study of conflict and war through history? – part of this story. The writing of poetry and music, the study of the stars, and that timeless classic PE game of dodgeball? It’s all part of the same story. And without this story, it is simply stuff. Deeper learning is deeper into this story.
Our students – these curious, passionate, desiring students were created to participate in this EPIC of God’s unfolding story of redemption. This is the story as they enter your school and classrooms, when the bell goes, when the laptops or binders are opened.
So, what are we do with them?
In upcoming blogs, I will be introducing and unpacking the main ideas and core practices of Teaching for Transformation, a deeper learning design approach to Christian education that invites students to “See the Story – Live the Story.”
Darryl DeBoer is the K-12 Director of Learning for Surrey Christian School in Surrey, British Columbia, a Senior Fellow for the Center for Advancement of Christian Education (CACE), and a Teaching for Transformation (Tft) co-creator and school designer through the Prairie Center for Christian Education and CACE. He is passionate about designing “real work, real need, real people” learning experiences that invite, nurture, and empower students to play their part within God’s story. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.