Master Teacher (Part 2)

7 03 2011

“Teach them his decrees and instructions
and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave.”
-Exodus 18:20

Continuing my post from last week, I am examining the teaching methodologies of Jesus based on a reading through the gospel of Luke.  In Master Teacher (Part 1), I talked about:

  • How Jesus took time to deal with each person on their schedule, not his.
  • Silence is sometimes the best answer.
  • The art of answering questions with questions.
  • Using parables to get a point across.

A fourth strategy I employ is answering questions with scripture.  During my three years in the public school, I was too frightened to share anything about my faith in the classroom.  Now that I work in a private Christian school, I have come out of my shell and am quoting from and referring to scripture more often in class.  The old “WWJD” is a little trite, but I do quote scripture when talking about cyber-bullying, sexting, plagiarism, or the like.

I am also not as afraid of being politically incorrect; Jesus never was.  My school’s mission statement speaks to the fact that we are to instill in our students Christian values and beliefs, and I am supported in doing so.  I know this is a huge privilege to be able to speak so freely about Christ, but it is also a daunting task to teach and train my students in the way they should go before the Lord. 

A very interesting attribute of Jesus I had never really considered is the fact that he was not immune from frustration.  As with any teacher, he experienced confused students who questioned him time and again over concepts he had repeatedly discussed.  His disciples in particular often didn’t “get it” and were sometimes embarrassed to ask for further explanation.  He was quick to rebuke when necessary, yet even in his frustration, he never sinned against those whom he was teaching.

I cannot say this has always been true in my classroom, but God and my students have been very gracious with me in this respect.  I am usually humbled quickly, and I publicly apologize when I have wronged a student.

One unique characteristic of Jesus that had a major impact on his teaching was the time he spent in prayer.  This trait wouldn’t be included in any contemporary pedagogy books, but I know it played a key part in his ministry.  Prayer is an important part of any Christian’s life, but I believe doubly so for anyone who is responsible for the care and training of others, be they teachers or parents.

Time and again Jesus retreated to pray early in the morning before he would begin teaching and ministering, as well as at night, after he undoubtedly had a very full day of attending to people’s physical and spiritual needs.

I desire strongly to have the kind of prayer life Jesus had.  I do pray a lot for my students and for myself.  I make it a point to pray for each one by name in class when they are testing, but I really need to do this more often, not just on the “important” days or for the “big grades.”

Jesus’ treatment of people is another appealing quality that would be desirable for any teacher to emulate.  Not that I have any students of ill-repute to deal with on a daily basis, but I do have some who would be considered “social rejects” by their peers:  those who are overweight, unattractive, socially awkward or in one past instance, one poor youth who had bad body odor; he came to my class right after P.E., and avoiding him was very tempting even for me.

None of this would have mattered in the least to Jesus, nor should they matter to me.  Even in Jesus’ day, the leaders, teachers, and his own disciples were quick to judge and dismiss the outsiders, but he always sought to meet their needs and didn’t care if he was being “politically correct.”  I should rely on his example—and only his—when it comes to treating all people with the respect and dignity that are due them.

Perhaps one of the most challenging methods of Jesus to imitate is how he taught different groups of people.  He often taught his disciples very differently compared to how he taught the religious leaders.  With his disciples, Jesus was very patient, would explain his parables, and frequently taught them alone, away from the public.  On the other hand, he usually angered the religious leaders with his parables and was very public when doing so.

People two millennia ago are the same as today; they have different learning styles.  I do not have the omniscience Christ did to be able to immediately distinguish what method or what words would best get the point across to my listeners.  I do, however, have modern research to enlighten me on the diverse learning styles our children have:  some are auditory, some are tactile, some are visual, etc.  One size does not fit all in the classroom.

I have the responsibility to know my students and do what I can to help them learn, and if I am not paying attention to their diverse needs, some may fail simply because I have failed them.

Possibly, the most crucial trait Jesus passed on to his followers was that he modeled for them what he wanted them to do.  Teachers and especially parents—whom I consider the most important teachers in a child’s life—should be very sensitive to this.  As the mother of a 3-year-old and an 8-year-old, I can attest to the fact that children do imitate what they are shown and speak what they hear.

God has placed on me as a parent and as a teacher of other people’s children an amazing responsibility to teach and train His children in the paths they should go in life.

  • I can help, or I can hinder.
  • I can praise, or I can discourage.
  • I can teach and model kingdom living, or I can become an obstacle to following Christ. 

In my home and in my classroom, I must never forget this responsibility.  If my two year old can pick up on my attitudes, speech, and behaviors when I think he’s not paying attention, how much more will my teenage students pick up?  In this respect, Christ was the ultimate teacher.  He modeled rightly for us what he wanted us to do—even to the death.

So how has Christ’s teaching methodology made a difference in my life?

  • He humbly served his followers.
  • He often put their needs before his own.
  • He listened to, prayed for, and respected those who chose to listen.
  • He met the individual’s needs amidst the masses.
  • He spoke directly to the heart of the matter at hand.
  • He was patient and yet was not afraid to discipline and rebuke when necessary. 

All these things he has done for me, and he has reminded me of my calling as a teacher to do all these things for those whom he has placed in my care.

To close, I would like to include a prayer that I read in the Focus on the Family monthly magazine some years ago, written by an anonymous source.  It was originally written as a prayer for parents, but it is dually applicable for teachers. 

You know my inadequacies. 
You know my weaknesses, not only in teaching,
but in every area of my life.
I’m doing the best I can to teach my kids properly,
but it may not be good enough.
As You broke the fishes and the loaves
to feed the five thousand hungry people,
now take my meager effort and use it to bless my students. 
Make up for the things I do wrong.
Satisfy the needs that I have not met.
Compensate for my blunders and mistakes.
Wrap you great arms around my students,
and draw them close to You.
And be there when they stand
at the great crossroads between right and wrong.
All I can give them is my best,
and I will continue to do that.
I submit them to You, now,
and rededicate myself to the task You have placed before me. 




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