Making a Difference
In 1985, High School teacher Christa McAuliffe (1948-1986) made history when she became the first American citizen selected from 11,000 applicants to go into space.
Christa saw this space mission as the ultimate field trip on which she could help her students better understand space as she would beam into their classroom from space and they would be part of history. As her students watched the Challenger lift off on 28 January 1986, and less than two minutes after lift-off, the shuttle exploded, and everyone aboard died. Recently when reflecting on her legacy, her husband commented that she had inspired generations of classroom teachers and students and focused public attention on the critical importance of teachers in the nation’s wellbeing.
Teachers from all walks of life want to make a difference in the lives of their students. But we must ask ‘what kind of difference’ are we to make in a Christian school? In the Old Testament there is a beautiful, insightful picture of the educational process that is to take place as the Hebrew people unfold to the children what it means to live out their identity as God’s chosen and called people. When the children ask, ‘what is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?’ they were to tell them their Exodus story. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is to be a person who unfolds God’s story to them. This means each teacher needs to be learning to understand all things in the light of the Gospel of Christ and His purpose for creation. Neil Postman suggests that the most important contribution schools can make to our youth is “to give them a sense of coherence in their studies, a sense of purpose, meaning and interconnectedness in what they learn.” (Postman, 1992, p. 186)
The curriculum and the culture of the school that the students participate in, though imperfect, is a community that embodies the presence of God’s Kingdom rule. It is a world where things are being reconciled and a world of wonder and gratitude. Love is reimagined to look like the God-man who came to serve and give His life a ransom for many. It is a new community of Jesus where people of all ethnic backgrounds can belong. When the cruciform life of the Saviour is seen in the lives of their teachers, over the long haul, students are given a foretaste of the power and truth of the Gospel.
Redemptive teaching seeks to make the eternal future present in the teaching relationship here and now.
“To build a better world, the beginnings of that world must be visible in daily life. There is no reason to expect much to happen in the future if the signs of hope are not in the present. We cannot speak about ways to bring peace and freedom if we cannot draw from our own experiences of peace and freedom here and now. We cannot commit ourselves to work for justice and love in tomorrow’s society, if we cannot discover the seeds of it in the relationships we engage ourselves in today.” (Nouwen, 1971, p. 14)
In the final analysis, to be a teacher is to see teaching “as primarily a way of life for others to see and understand and so that liberation can become a possibility.” (Nouwen, 1971, Introduction)
Looking at teaching as a calling from Christ Himself, St Augustine concluded that it is in teaching that man most significantly expresses his love of God and of his fellowman. (Augustine) The calling of a teacher is an enormous privilege and noble task. As God’s children, we need to recognise that in the complexities and demands of being a teacher, we are recipients of God’s grace and He calls us to live out His grace in our vocation, knowing that He dwells with us. As the Body of Christ, we do this journey together trusting Christ to work in and through us by His Spirit as we lead the students in God’s purpose.
“Therefore, since through God’s mercy, we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.” (2 Corinthians 4:1)
Grace and Peace
- Postman, N. (1992). Technopoly: The surrender of culture to Technology. Vintage Publishing
- Nouwen, H. (1971) Creative Ministry. Image Books
- Augustine, The Practice of the Catholic Church. 56