With the end of a school year rapidly approaching, I want to pause and reflect on what has transpired over the last nine months. Students across the country have been sitting in lectures, participating in action learning, writing papers, and taking exams. The sound of bells dictating the passing of the hours (and the passing of your life) are soon taking their much needed respite.
With all those many hours and assignments, what has been happening?
In short, I believe students across the country, no matter the school setting, have been undergoing discipleship. The question is this: what is the image towards which they are being discipled?
All education is religious, and all education is for the purpose of forming lives towards a desired end. Students are either being shaped in the image of Western American culture, or Christ. Are Western American culture and Christ working towards the same goal? Does Christ want his disciples formed in the image of Hollywood or Himself? Does Christ want students to acquire mere information, or undergo a process of holistic formation? Should students walk across graduation stages with diplomas of work completed, or evidence of wisdom acquired?
See the difference?
I believe modern culture has reduced learning to an amoral process. Yet, I don’t believe such is realistic. Students may not be taught morals explicitly, but certain moralities are implicitly affirmed or denied in the subtle and silent behavior of school cultures. Does the school culture with which you are engaged conform or contradict the morality of your home?
I look back over this year and I see many things done that are meaningless beyond the grade book. Admittedly, I’ve assigned some of those assignments. Does everything I assign or teach foster opportunity to acquire wisdom, or mere knowledge. I don’t see those terms as synonymous. Have you ever encountered an intelligent, yet foolish person? On the flip side, have you encountered someone without all the letters behind their names, yet full of wisdom?
So many of our industries in our nation have consistently rethought their processes to keep up with cultural demands. Has education done the same? Or, are we fundamentally doing the same things educators were doing fifty years ago?
Summers are time of much needed rest for teachers. People who have never taught have expressed “I wish I had two months off in the summer” and have done so completely oblivious to what they are saying. These eight weeks are hard-earned. But, maybe some of those eight weeks should be spent in reflection, too. Why do we do what we do? Why do I teach the way I teach? And, for what telos am I working? Do I hope to simply inform my students or be part of their formation? Google can do the former, not the latter. The latter takes an incarnational, lived experience with which to share.
May this summer be a time of refreshment (YES!), but may this summer also be a time of reflection on the reasons we walk into the school building day after day, year after year. Especially for Christians, do we see our students as minds to fill, or hearts to form? May God give us the grace to see our students as images of God we are called to play a part in forming.