Much of my work with CACE involves Christian Deeper Learning in one form or another. I have had the opportunity to facilitate workshops with EL Education , Project Based Learning, Redemptive Education, and most recently, Teaching for Transformation (TfT). TfT teachers at Mt. Zion Christian School in Manchester, New Hampshire and New Covenant School in Arlington, Massachusetts wanted to complete their first day of training in June in order to get their Deep Hope and storylines cooking over the heat of summer.
TfT has a carefully designed series of 8 full-day workshops to invite, nurture, and empower teachers on the transformational journey. The core practices are introduced with wonderful examples from TfT classrooms. TfT school designers know the power of sharing stories, and the power is amplified when they are stories that come from our own experience. So, as I prepared for the workshop, I looked for ideas in the TfT learning plan that I could illustrate with examples from my own teaching.
I did find a few opportunities but was surprised that my credibility would come from a source entirely other than my classroom. One of the inspiring principles of TfT is about “playing our role in God’s Story.” As soon as I began the opening circle at Mt. Zion, I realized that what mattered most in facilitating the TfT playbook was the degree to which I was conscious of playing my own part in God’s story. That’s what TfT invites students and teachers to do: “See the Story, Live the Story!”
I had always thought of God’s Story as Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration (CFRR). This is a useful framework in designing learning experiences that are faithful to what many schools call the “Biblical Perspective.” Whatever I am teaching, we can learn how “good” it was in God’s creation, how human beings messed it up, how Jesus brought redemption, and how he invites us to participate in God’s plan of restoration.
But I had a revelation about God’s Story on the 60 minute drive to Mt. Zion, similar to the moment when teachers realize that TfT is not a program, a set of practices, a curriculum, or even a philosophy–but rather, a way of life. I saw my role as school designer not so much as a facilitator of the TfT model, but rather as an example of Seeing the Story and Living the Story myself.
More important than crafting Formative Learning Experiences (FLEx) and practicing the TfT Throughlines in the CFRR framework is living in the present awareness that moment by moment, everything in and around me is the incarnation of God’s Story. That is reality! As Darryl DeBoer, Director of TfT, shared in an email, “I am most excited for when we will have the scales fall away from our eyes and really see what is happening all around us between our Creator and His creation.”
It’s his breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise….
I experienced a moment of this creation-Creator dance, praying as I cruised north on Interstate 93. Thick patches of bright golden daisies waved in the median strip and all along the sides of the road. They stretched on for miles, all opening wide to the rising sun. The scales fell from my eyes, and it was transparently clear that what they were doing was worshipping their creator. I can imagine the rejoicing in heaven and earth whenever any element of creation acts in perfect accordance with what God made it to be—playing their part in God’s Story.
There are a lot of stories one might tell in response to observing the daisies. I might have thought, “Wow, those are beautiful,” and then returned to the song on the radio. I might have wondered, “Who planted all those flowers?” The scientist might describe the chemistry that produced such vibrant hue. The mathematician might try to count the petals and look for patterns (careful, math teacher, you are hurtling down the road at 70 mph!). And the poet—
At my feet the white-petalled daisies display
the small suns of their center piece, their—if you don’t
mind my saying so—their hearts….
But through God’s grace, I saw the daisies, each one individually, and all of them collectively, worshipping their creator. Isn’t that seeing THE Story? Isn’t driving down the highway to the school playing my part in God’s Story? Isn’t it ALL the unfolding story of God’s creation, held together in the great Story?
I saw THE Story again the next day just driving just three miles to New Covenant School. People jogging, cars turning, birds flying, trucks delivering—I saw it all as God’s unfolding story. All of us playing a part, whether we knew it or not. If only I could carry that awareness into my interactions with creation, with God, with my brothers and sisters, with my curriculum! Maybe that awareness is what it means to pray without ceasing.
I still had some of the glow from those daisies when I got to the school. All my presentation anxiety departed; all need to perform, to be liked, to be effective disappeared. Even a successful TfT introduction seemed irrelevant. I was there to help us all See the Story and Live the Story, the one God is writing day by day, moment by moment. It is from ourselves seeing THE Story that we would know how to live it—how to greet our students, how to teach math, how to manage conflict, how to connect our curriculum to God’s design. We are after much more than a “Biblical perspective”—we want to live in God’s Story!
The TfT framework challenges teachers to be transformed themselves before they can hope to impact their students. As I worked at Mt. Zion and New Covenant, I realized that my effectiveness in supporting teachers is dependent on my own transformation as a school designer. Through my practice in “seeing the story,” and God’s grace in “living it,” I hope to become ever more conscious of the true reality I am living in, day to day, breath by breath.
To learn more about Teaching for Transformation and other Deeper Learning designs in Christian Schools, please join us March 7-8 at CDL 5, a pre-conference offering before Converge 2022.
After 28 years teaching in classrooms K-12, Steven Levy (firstname.lastname@example.org) is now an educational consultant working with public and Christian schools. He was recognized as the Massachusetts State Teacher of the Year (1993), and honored by the Disney American Teacher Awards as the national Outstanding General Elementary Teacher (1995). Mr. Levy was the recipient of the Autodesk Award for his national impact on project-based learning, and received the John F. Kennedy Prize for the teaching of history. Mr. Levy and his fourth grade students were designated “Conservation Heroes” by the National Park Service for their study of the effects of a local bike path on the environment and the community. Mr. Levy has written various articles for educational journals, and his book, Starting From Scratch (Heinemann, 1996), details some of the projects and students he has worked with in his public elementary classrooms. He currently writes a blog for CACE.