by Noel Weeks
Teaching can be viewed as something so simple that one cannot understand why so many children do not learn. Or it can be seen as something so complex and demanding that it is a wonder anybody succeeds in it at all. It could be seen as something one can do just by courses with a certain title. Or it can be seen as a gift you either have or you do not have.
Each school of educational theory has its own definition of what teaching is. Yet there are certain things on which they all seem to agree. Rationalism has largely triumphed in respect of the way in which men and women are trained to be teachers. They are taught theoretical educational psychology and educational philosophy. The premise is that the empirical study of how children function and learn will enable teachers to teach them the Ďnaturalí way. Similarly educational philosophy strives to create the perfect rational analysis of education.
There is a story, which may be apocryphal but could well be true, about a Scottish university. There was a proposal to add a department of Education to the Arts Faculty. This created strong opposition from some quarters within the faculty. They insisted that a university was for theoretical study and should not become a mere college for teaching the techniques of education. They were solemnly assured, however, that education as taught at the university level was a theoretical discipline quite divorced from what goes on in the classroom. That could describe many tertiary courses in education. Teachers use very little, if anything, of what they are taught in educational psychology or philosophy.
The reason for the practical uselessness of these subjects is obvious. Rationalism is wrong. You cannot start with rats in mazes or salivating dogs and come to a complete understanding of a child. You cannot lock his stages of learning into a necessary sequence on the model of the organism progressing from one stage of evolution to another, because the child is made in the image of God. There is a measure of order and regularity in the childís behaviour and learning, for he is a creature. Yet the child still retains the mystery of a person.
Thus it is not that it is wrong to seek by observation to understand children. It is that the reductionist and evolutionary assumptions built into much educational psychology ruin it. The sort of observations that are useful are those made by good teachers who have had years of experience. They are not the abstract and theoretical sort the rationalist wants.
Thus teachers are trained by receiving courses which are likely to be misguided and unlikely to be useful. Education departments seem reluctant when it comes to curriculum matters to admit that the various approaches current are mere reflections of competing philosophical schools. That reluctance can be traced back to another factor. There is strong scepticism in the general community about philosophy. The various schools have been at work for hundreds of years and have not been able to solve the problems of man. To admit that a certain curriculum approach was an application of romanticism would not be likely to commend it. Hence teachers are either told that a certain approach is the quintessence of education wisdom and all who do not use it are ignoramuses, or they are confronted with the competing array and told to take a little bit of each. Both approaches leave the teacher without adequate basis for judgment.
Yet for all this, the educational establishment strives hard to create a mystique about education. It knows that there is strong public disillusionment with education. Education competes for the increasingly tight financial resources of governments. If teaching is something anybody can do without special and formal training, then the status of those who have been trained formally is diminished and the status of those who train them is also diminished. Against this threat ĎEducationí has to be promoted as an esoteric discipline which requires special training.
This is not an argument against the training of teachers. It is simply to point out that much which goes by that name is useless. If the teacher thinks such a course has made him an Ďexpertí he is doubly confused.
In Christian schools the problem is more often a recognition that teacher training has proved very deficient. The problem is then to know what one should put in its place. There are a number of simple things which can be done.
A fundamental role of the teacher is to explain. This might seem self-evident but it is important to realize that the schools of educational method so far considered de-emphasize, or even oppose, explaining. The rationalist does so because he believes the correct arrangement of material will make explanation unnecessary. Furthermore, the rationalist is generally enamoured of his theoretical jargon. He does not want to break his jargon down, explain and simplify it. He simply wants the pupil to learn his system. The romanticist does not want the teacher to explain lest he impose adult categories on the child. The follower of Dewey wants the child to discover it for himself so the teacher is not encouraged to explain.
Further, teachers have generally been taught at a crucial point of their preparation by people who use fairly technical and abstract language. The tertiary lecturer is generally using a very different style from that which a teacher needs to use. Hence the teachers have lacked models for an explanatory role.
When a teacher has himself been taught at school by a method which did not involve explanation, then there are additional consequences. Once more the teacher is lacking a model. Teaching methods which do not involve explaining can lead to a good student having an intuitive feel of the material without that material being known and fully understood. When that student later becomes a teacher he may have trouble giving an explanation of material he himself does not fully understand. He will expect his pupils to learn as he did, by intuition without the material being explained.
Explaining involves breaking the material down into small steps. Many children who are said not to be able to grasp a certain concept, can do so if they are taught in small stages and if various parts of the problem are isolated and taught sequentially. Learning by discovery tends to present a complex situation to a child, trusting in the childís ability to recognize the significant elements of that complex. Children often find that very hard to do. Explaining is the art of selecting the parts of the problem and making sure each is understood before proceeding to the next. As the childís ability grows, the elements being selected naturally become larger.
One can break the material down, simply because there is order in the creation. Once again it needs to be stressed that we do not see order as the rationalist does. It is not an exhaustive theoretical order. Nevertheless there is regularity. It needs to be stressed also that many teachers have come through a romanticist training with very strong bias against analysis. Therefore this approach may be strange to many teachers.
Explaining also involves illustration. The classic example of this is Scripture. In this matter the church can be of aid to the teachers. Good preaching and teaching in the church generally involves illustration. If the teacher sees a model in the church it may help to compensate for the lack of models in his own education.
Rationalism, being abstract and theoretical, is generally averse to illustration. Further, the rationalist, believing truth to be self-evident, does not see the need for illustration. Teachers who have come out of such an environment must give time to thinking of illustrations, comparisons, stories, demonstrations and such like, to get the point across. Later it will come more naturally.
Explaining involves repetition. Repetition is important for fixing something in the mind and making it available for instant recall. It is also necessary for the child who does not learn quickly. Once again we must have compassion for the pupil who has problems. That child will often learn provided something is repeated. Of course attention has to be given to making the repetition interesting and purposeful. If the teacher sees no point in repetition he will convey that to the class and they will see it as boring. If the teacher sees purpose in it and works at it, then the reaction of the child will be different.
The extension of repetition is memorization. You only memorize what you think is so important that you want it perfectly at your fingertips. The romanticist will, of course, claim that nothing is worth memorizing because nothing the adult tells the child has lasting worth. In the strong bias against memorization in todayís education we see something of the strength of romanticism.
There is an important side-effect of memorization. It develops the ability to memorize. Certain professions, for example engineering, where it is useful to retain formulae in the memory rather than consult a book on the job, are now finding a problem. Engineers, who have come through an education opposed to memorization, have great trouble in memorizing what is desirable. Another consequence is inability to memorize Scripture.
The loss of ability to memorize affects the tests that schools can give children. If the child lacks the ability to absorb and remember information, then testing is very difficult. Often schools try to compensate for this by reducing the material to be tested. For example, instead of a yearís material the test may be applied to a monthís material. This, however, affects curriculum. Courses which require time to build concepts or information tend to disappear and to be replaced by more packaged, less conceptual courses. That is an educational loss. The child finds it then much more difficult to cope with major examinations at high school or tertiary level.
Children nerd to be motivated to work at learning. For learning necessitates work. It can be difficult, discouraging work. The prime motivation is that God requires it of us. The teacher needs to keep this fact before the child. State schools are forced to seek for alternative motivations. They tend to use self-centred reasons. They will argue that a child should do well at school in order to make money later. Or they will try to use rewards to encourage learning. In a subsidiary way these things may enter into a Christian motivation. We may say a child needs to learn in order to make money, but the money is to support others as well, for example the family and the needy. And we are to use our money that way because God tells us to do so. Ultimately it comes back to our responsibility to God out of gratitude for what he has done for us.
The use of rewards as a motivation is a debated subject. Some schools give material rewards. Others give psychological rewards, for example, commendation. Others again give prestige for academic accomplishment. Against this there are those who are against giving any reward lest children work for the wrong reason.
The Book of Ecclesiastes is relevant for this issue. Ecclesiastes also speaks to an issue which is quite common amongst students. Some students cannot complete their work because they must have it perfect. Ecclesiastes points out the futility of the human search for final perfection and final accomplishment. Yet it also has another message. A man is to see good in his labour (2:24). Ecclesiastes is dealing with the practical equivalent of the debate between rationalism and romanticism that was considered earlier. The perfectionist wants to have the perfection and finality of God. He is not willing to accept creaturely limitations. A reaction to the failure of this attempt is to say that there is no point whatsoever in work. But to work is undoubtedly beneficial to both man and child. We all gain from a sense of accomplishment and achievement. We need to see good in our labour. So the child needs to be commended for the work he has done. He needs that sense of satisfaction. Since he is a child and has trouble gauging the standard of his own work, he needs the teacher to commend work that has been done well.
Behaviourism has distorted the whole issue of rewards. The behaviourist sees man as an animal. An animal responds to immediate material rewards. Hence man is seen as responding in a similar way. Given manís material needs, and in particular his sinful cravings, he will often work for material rewards. However, the behaviourist ignores all the other aspects of manís character. He does not see that man, made in the image of the Creator, needs to work at something and to accomplish something. The behaviourist will stress the material reward and ignore the satisfaction of work accomplished. Generally speaking the most needed reward is the praise and encouragement of a respected and loved teacher or parent. Schools which substitute material rewards for this show a lack of understanding of children.
Related to this issue is the question whether childrenís work should be marked and whether that mark should be divulged to the children. A romanticist will reject marking out of hand. Some Christians are opposed to the divulging of marks on the ground that it tends to breed sinful pride and competition. That is certainly a valid concern. They also make the point that children who do not perform well academically may be discouraged, even though they have done well in other, perhaps more important, areas. To give marks for work can tend to the elevation of particular skills to the detriment of others.
These are valid points. Yet we need to be careful of falling into the reverse trap. A school which selects certain pupils to represent it in a sporting competition has done the same thing as marking, for it has recognized that these particular children have outstanding ability in that area.
Paul, in a context where he is talking about the different abilities God has given to the church, points out the need to have a proper and sound assessment of our own abilities. We are not to over-rate them (Romans 12:3). This is an area in which we all struggle and children struggle also. We need to help them to realize that there are tasks at which they excel, and tasks which they find troublesome. A teacher must learn to appreciate the child who has abilities that he or she lacks. To the extent that marking gives a child help in assessing how he is doing, it can be defended. We have to be alert to the problems of pride, competition, and discouragement which may result. Where a child has done well, he needs the extra reinforcement of personal commendation. Where he has done poorly he needs help either to accept lack of ability in that area or to work harder.
Marking can also help the child, and especially the parent, to assess the childís progress towards the goal of school education. The school is not an independent entity. It must communicate with the parents and often does so by issuing periodical reports on behaviour, ability, and success or otherwise.
The discussion of the problems that come with marking reinforces a point made earlier. The rewards of behaviourist systems cannot take such problems into account. The personal commendation can be slanted to deal with these problems, whereas tangible rewards or elevation to some higher stage of work cannot perform the same service.
All the time a teacher is teaching he is under examination. His character is analysed. His fairness is examined. His inconsistencies are probed. That is why teaching is such a test of character. The teacher gives orders and sets tasks. Those under orders will react to any hint of hypocrisy.
As far as curriculum is concerned, there is a very important sense in which the teacher is a model. There is strong pressure on Christians to live as though Christianity is practically irrelevant. As far as schooling is concerned this shows itself in a clear separation between secular academic content and Scripture. The teacher has to be the model of one who has striven and laboured to interpret all his work and effort from a biblical point of view. If he has not completely succeeded, that is not a problem. We are not perfect. If it is not obvious that he is working to the limit of his powers, there is a great problem. For he is teaching the children by example that Christianity and academic disciplines can be separated.
Many Christian educators on the tertiary level may be opposed to Christian schooling and committed to the state school system. Others are consciously or unconsciously worried by charges that the Christian school system is educationally inferior. They see the state school system as the standard. Thus they are basically committed to the state system. That means being tied to a curriculum and educational methodology that is not Christian.
Yet people at large know that there is to be something different about the Christian in education. If it cannot be curriculum or methodology, then what is it? They seek the answer in the realm of personal relationships. They say that a Christian teacher of children should be outstandingly loving and kind. That is certainly true, but it is only part of the story. Such love and kindness should characterize every believer. It is not the distinguishing mark of teaching. It is not the sole thing that separates the Christian and the non-Christian teacher. The content of instruction must also be different. The methodology must be consistent with biblical teaching. The example the teacher should set has to be an example which applies to every aspect of life, public and private.
The area of discipline represents a major problem for teachers. We must remember that we are influenced by the approaches of non-Christian educational systems. We need to think through our Christian basis for what we do.
First we must keep clear the distinction between the results of sin and sin itself. For example, if a child is blind, then his being blind has some connection with sin. He lives in a fallen world. Yet he may not be personally responsible for his blindness. We could not hold him responsible if there was something he did not learn because he was blind.
Similarly there are many other physical causes of failure to learn. We cannot hold a child responsible or punish a child for them. Nevertheless not all failures to learn are due to some physical problem over which the child has no control. They may be due to something for which the child is accountable, as, for example, failing to study when told to do so.
Horror stories are sometimes told about schools in former days, as, for example, the caning of children who failed a test. The problem here is that the distinction has not been made between failure due to circumstances beyond the childís control and failure due to disobedience.
In practice, when it comes to school performance, it may be very difficult to assess the causes. Is the child to blame or not? A child with physical problems is often indulged and so will have behaviour problems as well. Conversely a child may discover that he escapes work by pretending to have a problem. Often the problems are so intertwined that it takes considerable skill to distinguish them.
In practice, the areas where a teacher needs to exercise various forms of discipline are not so much failure in academic work as in the practices or attitudes which cause that failure. Or it may be practices which occur at school time but are unrelated to schooling. One thinks here of problems that arise in the playgrounds. Basically, evil practices can be described as disobedience either directly to the commandments of God or indirectly to those in legitimate authority under God.
Non-Christian educational systems are facing the consequence of destroying the moral basis of parental authority. They are faced with very serious moral and behaviour problems. Yet they do not believe there is any absolute right or wrong. They are forced to define sin as anti-social or inappropriate behaviour. They attempt various behaviour modification techniques and yet the crucial factor is lacking, namely, the knowledge and conviction as to the differences between right and wrong.
Discipline must start with the teacherís conviction that certain behaviour is wrong. If the teacher is not sure of that he will not discipline effectively. He will discipline to his own convenience and the children will sense his inconsistencies. Further, he cannot give an adequate explanation to the children of his standards of discipline.
If we start with Scripture then we see that Scripture not only tells us what is right and wrong. It also shows variation in punishments. That is not to say we can learn from Scripture what should be the punishment for a particular misdemeanour on the part of a child. Yet we should not treat every sin as of equal gravity.
This point is made to temper and put in perspective important biblical instruction. The Book of Proverbs sees corporal punishment as appropriate for the child (13:24; 22:15; 23:13, 14). To respond to each misdemeanour with the same physical punishment is to ignore the gradation in the seriousness of sin found in Scripture. On the other hand, to see physical punishment as the very last resort, never to be used except in some rare and extreme circumstance, is not taking Proverbs seriously. Each school needs to come to some sort of consistency in its disciplinary practices. It is worth considering policies in which clear disobedience or wrong to others receives corporal punishment. The problem caused by a policy in which corporal punishment is tried only after everything else has been tried and has failed, is that serious sins are not treated with the remedy Scripture recommends.
The strong opposition to corporal punishment today comes from several factors. One is the belief in the fundamental goodness of the child. Obviously if the child is good, punishment is quite inappropriate. Another factor has already been mentioned: the misuse of punishment as a universal reaction to failure.
The whole subject of discipline has been confused by behaviourism. Behaviourism has no real moral basis. It treats man as an animal whose behaviour is to be modified by suitable punishments. The punishment is thus not adapted to the seriousness of the sin. One practical result of behaviourist schemes of behaviour modification is often a descent into the trivial and the ridiculous. A whole series of trivial punishments is set up that endlessly postpone the moment of effective discipline. Because man is seen as basically an animal there is no incentive to give a reason for him to change. He is to be changed purely by graduated punishments.
Far better is the biblical way: reasoned rebuke with the reason coming from Godís Word, supported where needed by corporal punishment.
THE TEACHERíS PERSONAL STRUGGLE
Many of a teacherís problems are not with curriculum or methodology. They are with himself. That is not to say that all failure in teaching is due to a teacher having personal problems. Curriculum and methodology play a part. Teachers are also often confronted with the consequences of the system which was described earlier. They find themselves undergoing an academic course of teacher instruction without knowing whether they have the aptitude to be a teacher. Sometimes teachers have problems simply because they are following the wrong profession. To face that fact is not failure.
Furthermore, personal problems may mar the teaching of a person who is definitely gifted. One of the problems of the academic approach to teacher training is that it conveys an idea that the teacher who has completed the course is an Ďexpertí. He has passed the examinations; he must be expert! This attitude is particularly inculcated because of the need to bolster the position of the teacher in a system which is usurping the rights of parents. The teacher has to think of himself in that way to justify his authority. Once a teacher sees himself after this fashion, it is very hard to admit that he still needs to learn.
At this point, and with all the other personal problems a teacher faces, his Christian maturity is put to the test. As Proverbs once again points out, the way to wisdom is to desire and long for it (4:7; 2:3ff). The person who thinks that he possesses wisdom to the full does not seek for extra wisdom. But he who is truly taught of the Lord recognizes his need for understanding and growth. This work is largely about curriculum. Hence the aspect of the fitness of teachers may easily be minimized. That arises from the concentration of this work; not from what really applies in the school situation. No curriculum will avail if the teacher is not personally appropriate. Further, we should not merely look for some bare and minimal Christian profession in teachers. We should also look for understanding and a clear desire to grow in the things of the Lord. Unless that is there, the teacher will not survive the personal struggles of the classroom. He may do an acceptable job on casual impressions, but the children will lack the personal stimulus of one grappling with problems and overcoming them in the Lordís strength.
Further, he may reject a genuinely Christian curriculum as requiring too much work and as being too different from what is fashionable in contemporary education. The person who is growing does not avoid work and is not desirous of comfortable conformity to the world.
Amongst serious personal difficulties in teachers we need to face the following:
a) Lack of Personal Organization and Discipline
Teaching requires organization. The material of lessons must be prepared. The teacher must be punctual. Now obviously there are degrees. One should not go to extremes and have phobias about a single pencil out of place. People with such phobias do not succeed as teachers because their attempt to organize the material world around them is a substitute for being unable to deal with people. Some people come to teaching with a stronger bent for organization than others. Some people tend to be tidier than others. Yet the real question is not what the teacherís study looks like at home. It is whether he is well organized in respect of work in school.
The students will react to the inconsistencies they see in a teacher. If they are expected to be punctual, they are scornful if a teacher is unpunctual. If their work is expected to be completed at a certain time, they are irritable when it is not returned corrected at a certain time.
At the outset a teacher finds this very hard. He has no stock of prepared work. That is quite understandable. All that can reasonably be expected is that progress is being made. The second year should show a marked improvement on the first.
Sometimes circumstances of a personal nature can intrude into a teacherís preparation and marking. That cannot be avoided. Difficulties arise even in a teacherís life. Depending on the age of the children, some brief explanation of them may help the situation. One late arrival of the teacher may well be explained, but if we are perpetually late for our appointments, then our excuses wear thin. If we occasionally run late we feel that the person we have troubled deserves an apology and explanation. Let us remember that children are people deserving similar courtesy.
The sort of curriculum that is developed in this book puts a particular strain on the teacherís organizational gifts. Curricula in which children supposedly teach themselves are less demanding.
Some organization is required initially to have materials for children to work on. Sometimes this comes pre-packaged for the teacher. Where the teacher is actually teaching it is much more difficult. The teacher has to prepare to introduce and explain. He has to do so in such a way that the class as a whole can understand. And he needs materials prepared on which students can practise concepts and skills.
Lack of organization is also a problem in a teacherís use of his holiday time. One of the community perceptions of teachers is that they have many more holidays than anybody else. If they genuinely do, then they will often meet with trouble in teaching. A typical situation is that a teacher begins his first year with very little material prepared. That is not his fault. It is largely the fault of his training. Hence, if he is conscientious, he works night and day just to keep up with the class. By the time the holidays come, he rightly feels he has earned a good rest. However, if he uses all such rest-periods as holidays he will find himself in a somewhat unprepared state at the beginning of the next year. Thus the next year will also be taxing. So a cycle develops of overwork at some stages of the year and exhaustion at others. It also intensifies any existing tendencies to do things in a rush at the last moment.
To be an effective teacher, and to have time available for family and other responsibilities, the teacher needs long-term organization. School holidays cater for preparation for the future as well as for recreation.
The problems of teachers are very real at the start of their career. Yet after some years a reasonably competent teacher builds a store of materials and experience. What then? There is a danger of stagnation. As one looks at the Christian school movement as a whole, in its many decades of existence, there is relatively little available in the way of good, genuinely Christian curriculum material. And yet one knows that there are experienced teachers everywhere at work who have the ability to write curricula.
There are many causes for the lack. Not all blame should be placed on teachers. Often they are caught in a system which pictures the tertiary person as the expert in curriculum matters. Hence their problem is one of confidence. Or they may receive no encouragement from others around them since the other experienced teachers or parents who should encourage are in the same problem or consumed by school administrative burdens.
Nevertheless some of the lack must be due to stagnation. The teacher has found non-Christian materials that are nottoo offensive in his eyes. Or he is using pre-packaged material that is superficially Christian. As long as he can get by with such material, what incentive does he have to go deeper or to attempt to develop his own materials? A secondary consequence is that the lack of teachers interested in such materials is a disincentive to publishers to market them.
c) Lack of Authority
One teacher walks into a classroom. Without his saying a word, hush descends and the children eagerly turn their minds to learning. Another teacher enters the same classroom. By dint of great effort he obtains some measure of control. For all his control the class throughout the lesson seems more likely to burst into open revolt than to learn.
What is it? What is that mysterious something that some teachers obviously seem to have and others lack? We can call it a charisma or a gift and yet it can be developed. Even a very good teacher may not have been so obviously good at the beginning.
There is no one secret. Doubtless it is partly connected to personality. Yet we can say some things about it. Determination is a major part. The good teacher is determined that the child must and shall learn. The rebellious and mischievous child senses that if he resists then he will be opposing all the power, forces, and energy the teacher can command.
It is not merely determination. Tyrants have that, yet they are poor teachers. It is also selflessness. The determination is for the good of the child, not just for the teacherís good. A good teacher tends to be an open and generous person.
Can such qualities be nurtured and developed? Determination is much related to conviction. A true conviction is founded on a confidence in Scripture. Teachers with a clear sense of what is right and wrong have a much easier task with discipline. They must possess the determination to succeed as a teacher. If one sees that as his responsibility to God, then it gives him extra incentive. It helps overcome one of the crucial problems of teachers: fear of public exposure. Teaching involves a projection of oneself. As much as an actor on the stage, a teacher projects himself into the public arena. Many teachers find such a projection hard to accomplish. Their style is withdrawn and tentative.
If a man walks down the street shouting and talking very loudly, we note him as having a problem. He is trying to draw attention to himself. If there is a fire and he walks down the street calling out the warning in a subdued and tentative voice, we would also say he has a problem. An extrovert is a bad teacher if his extroversion is selfishly motivated. His concern is himself and not the children. An introvert may also be a bad teacher if the introversion has a selfish motivation. He is then refusing to project his personality for fear of exposure to ridicule and embarrassment.
Many of the other problems we have considered Ė tardiness, disorganization, etc. Ė stem from a basic selfishness in the teacher. Other priorities, especially those which are personal, are more important in his eyes.
Here we meet with spiritual problems. The answer lies in placing responsibility to God and concern for the children above oneself. That can only come when the fact of Godís unselfishness in giving his Son for us has taken control of us.
THE TEXTBOOK TEACHER
Few cooks today prepare everything starting from the most basic ingredients. There may be a few who start with wheat and grind their own flour, make their own bread, tomato sauce, and so on. Most make use to a greater or lesser extent of pre-prepared materials. At the other extreme to the cook who starts with his own wheat is the one who simply heats frozen dinners bought in the supermarket.
Similarly teachers vary in the extent to which they rely upon prepared and textbook material. Some do little more teaching than telling the child the starting page in the textbook. Others may do more teaching but have allowed the textbook to shape the curriculum, rather than using textbooks as they fit into the curriculum.
One can sympathize with the teacherís reliance on the textbook, especially when he is inexperienced. Many teachers in Christian schools teach multiple-grade classes. That increases the preparation time and organizational demands. In order to survive, a teacher may feel it necessary to rely upon textbooks, at least for part of the course.
The problems of textbook reliance are connected to the lack of good Christian texts but they go further. The textbook easily becomes a substitute for teaching given by the teacher himself. Then the classroom lacks the personality and interest that is provided by a living teacher in interaction with the class. A textbook may reinforce a teacher but a textbook cannot replace a teacher. There is also the problem mentioned earlier of a lack of incentive for people to produce Christian texts. If the Christian school teachers have become dependent upon the existing non-Christian or superficially Christian texts, what incentive is there to produce Christian texts of good quality?
Given the demands upon teachers it is unreasonable to expect them to teach without textbooks. However, one would hope to see a lessening of the dependence as the teacher becomes more experienced. We require such independent teachers for the sort of curriculum which is recommended in this book. It is a curriculum for which texts do not presently exist. Teachers dependent upon textbooks will naturally be dismayed at that prospect. If we are to develop really Christian curricula then we must become the masters of the textbooks, using them where possible and yet controlling the course. Otherwise there will never be thoroughly Christian curricula.
THE IMPERATIVE OF GROWTH
We cannot pretend that the task of being a Christian teacher is an easy one. Nobody starts as a mature, wise, and experienced teacher. Even experienced teachers, if they are not stagnant, are constantly re-evaluating what they are doing, and adjusting it. To expect instant perfection is unreasonable and discouraging. What we should be expecting is growth. The teacher is like the child. The child needs to see evidence that he is learning, that he is making progress. So the teacher for his own encouragement needs to know that he has matured. A teacher with that encouragement projects to the class the example and the enthusiasm of one who is also a learner.
Dr Noel Weeks, born at Grafton, Australia, was Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Sydney. His broad background includes the degrees of B.Sc. (Honours in Zoology) from the University of New England, B.D. and Th.M. from Westminster Theological Seminary, and Ph.D. (Mediterranean Studies) from Brandeis University, Massachusetts. A member of the Reformed Churches of Australia, he is sought after as a speaker and writer on many issues. He is the President of the association for the largest parent-controlled Christian School in New South Wales.
This article is taken from his book, The Christian School, pp. 61-76. Another book from his pen, The Sufficiency of Scripture, is also published by the Banner of Truth Trust.
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