The movie Chariots of Fire is the true story of a Scotsman, Eric Liddell, who was to run in the 1924 Olympic Games. He was committed to Christ and due to his convictions, he chose not to run in the 100 metres race as it was held on a Sunday. He later went on to win the 400 metres race and went to serve as a missionary in China where he died in an internment Camp in 1945. Eric said “God has made me fast and when I run I feel His pleasure.” Harold Abrahams, an English runner, went on to win the 100 metres race. He had said “I have 10 seconds to prove my existence.”

As a teenager, Eric learnt to run as an act of worship to God. Harold ran to find the meaning of his life. Both were very gifted but one life was shaped by God’s grace, the other by their own performance. One’s heart was orientated to the Creator, the other was to self-advancement.

In Australia, we tend to have a ‘win at all costs’ mentality in sport which manifests itself in aggressive behaviour by players towards the opposing team and spectators who rage at the referee when a decision does not go their way.

Our culture and the curriculum places a high value on individual fitness and sporting success. How do we reframe the teaching and learning so that the love of neighbour informs our pedagogical practice in the teaching of physical education and sport?

In his recent book “On Christian Teaching: Practicing Faith in the classroom”, David Smith cites the example of, James, a PE teacher who set about teaching his students through the lens of “love within a team framework.” He designed an activity where students worked in pairs to learn the push-pass skill for field-hockey. They practised the skills with each other, with one alternating between being the player and one being the coach. They helped each other by discussing strategies. This was followed by a whole class discussion around the different approaches to encouragement. A game played at the end of the lesson showed how attention to practice enabled them to see their opponents in a new way. By working together and learning from each other there was opportunity for each individual team to build their capacity. In this way, sporting competition was fostering the building of relationships, creating a shared vision and strategy and developing the virtue of being able to win and lose well and rejoice in the victories of others.

This approach was embedded in the ethos of the school’s physical education department and embodied in the lives of the teachers.

For your reflection:

  • 1. Can you think of an example where the design of a learning activity contradicted the Kingdom values that you are seeking to teach the children?
  • 2. How does the physical education example challenge the way you think about pedagogy in a Christian school?
  • 3. Consider a unit of work that you are currently teaching. How might you structure the learning to reflect Kingdom priorities and orientate the students’ minds and hearts to their Creator?

“. . . teaching itself is always telling a story about how we inhabit time

– about who we are,

where we are now, and

where we are headed.”

(D Smith)

Grace and Peace

The Team

The Excellence Centre