Throughout my teaching career, I’ve made bold claims about my students and my beliefs about who they are. I’ve often said things like, “I believe my students are unique image-bearers of God, created with individual gifts, talents, strengths, and weaknesses.” Do you believe that about your students? Have you ever made a similar statement about them?
But is it enough to say things like this? If this is really true about your teaching, how does this show up in your classroom?
Teaching is not for the faint of heart. Sometimes it’s just plain hard work. I understand all too well the weariness that comes from putting your all into your teaching practice. I understand the sacrifice that comes along with striving for greatness in the service of the King. (As Jesus himself said it: “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant.”) I understand the teacher who says, “Trying to tailor instruction to the needs of each unique individual is just so much work!”
It is hard work, after all.
Here’s the trouble for me. It’s easy to say things like, “I believe every child I teach is a unique image-bearer, with individual gifts, talents, strengths, and weaknesses.” But do you really believe that? Because if you really believe it…your actions will demonstrate your belief.
Reflect with me on this. Is there a gap between theory and practice when it comes to your belief about who your students really are? If it’s true that they are created uniquely…we have to teach them that way! If you really believe that students are individuals, can you continue to teach “the class?” I hope you’ll weigh these questions in the spirit that they are offered; I’m not going to pretend that I have this all figured out and that I do this perfectly. Much as I wish that were true, it is not.
I think we need to start trying to make our words and actions line up. What steps can we take to teach each child in the ways that they learn?
Dave taught in Christian schools for 14 years before joining the Education department at Dordt University in 2012. He has experience working with learners at every level from Kindergarten through graduate school, but spent much of his career teaching a variety of subjects for grades 5-8. He loves curriculum and instruction, has a mild obsession with educational technology, and is always excited to discuss reflective practice, school culture, and faith formation. Dave blogs at iteach-and-ilearn.blogspot.com