One of the most significant things that I do is to communicate the truth of Christ to others. This is my vocation. From time to time, then, I like to sharpen my thoughts on this primary occupation. I trust this statement is more than a display of my own credo on teaching (an otherwise narcissistic act redeemed when it is prepared to support for students taking my courses, or parishioners hearing my preaching). At its best, it is an exercise of continual improvement to share knowledge, often saving knowledge, of Christ and His Kingdom, so that teacher and student, together, bow as one before the Great Teacher.
Following John Milton (1608-1674), we propose that teaching and learning are “to repair the ruines of our first Parents” (Of Education, 1644). Five core commitments support my philosophy of teaching.
Teaching as One Sacred Moment
Education is a sacred moment that unlocks and unleashes the heart and mind for the glory of God and the blessing of humanity.
The process and dynamic of educating a person are far more than a mere act of transfer of information. Education is a nexus in which the spirit of the educator moves past the boundaries of self-protection and self-interest to bring about an expansion of the student’s humanity.
Teaching as Dialogue
Teaching is a dialogue. The Socratic method of teaching—guiding a student to self-discovery through questions—facilitates dialogue. This dialogue happens formally and informally but always intentionally.
The dialogical method occurs in the classroom which may be residential, or like Paul teaching Timothy, by distance. The conversation happens when teachers and learners move with intellectual choreography, from problem to testing, from testing to conclusions, from conclusions to meanings. the dialogical approach also occurs as the student begins to “follow the footnote trail.” The dialogue is no less real when the voice of the teacher becomes conscience, or the voice of the student becomes conviction. Nor does this dialogue happen hurriedly. The interchange that leads to self-revelation happens across a plain of time. A fruitful discussion that leads to learning cannot be restricted to a classroom but rather to the growing relationship between teacher and student. Nor is dialogue always conducted with words. Silence is a powerful resource in learning. Thus, I seek “cultivating students’ comfort with silence and reflective listening” (Contemplative Approach, Lobely, 2019).
Teaching as Incarnation
The means of instruction for such an educational philosophy begins and ends with the essential material: a dedicated, inspiring professor of knowledge who desires to lead students to not only acquire that knowledge but in some way to experience that knowledge themselves.
Incarnational teaching requires empathy, understanding; in short, a commitment to “I and Thou” (Buber, 1958) as a framework for teaching and learning.
Teaching with Goals
I am committed to the goal of “deep learning.” Deep learning happens when the teacher’s guidance leads to the student’s self-discovery and “following the footnote trail” to arrive at a synthesis of ideas (Bloom’s Taxonomy, 1956), and synthesis unleashes creativity.
I am committed to the goal of teaching that imparts a license to learn. I hope to teach so that students receive knowledge, not as a commodity, but as a gift to cultivate through their lives.
Teaching with Clarity
Teaching happens within the context of well-articulated parameters. A learning contract is needed to ensure that both teachers and students understand the parameters that will bring about success. I am committed to teaching as a process of providing students with expectations, outcomes, and learning resources (e.g., readings, assignments) that are clear. To these ends, I provide rubrics, prompts for self-reflection, and weekly encouragement to the student, allowing further clarity. Finally, I teach to improve transparency. To that end, I ask students to provide measurable feedback on their learning experience.
In summary, I have advocated for a philosophy of education that is devoted to a deeply spiritual moment in which teachers and students meet at the intersection of common humanity to know God, themselves, and their need for redemption.
In this place, where educators and students experience the “I and Thou” at the nexus of common need before God, the act of teaching occurs and does so with its most fecund results. This organizing vision provides the student the best opportunity for synthesis (through critical thinking, i.e., moving mindfully from often-discordant variables to a denouement with a coherent, controlling vision) and application to self and others. I hold that such a coda of learning—from Truth to personal synthesis and application to one’s relationship to God, self, others, and Creation—is realized when I teach in dialogue, through incarnation, with goals, and with clarity, to seek to “repair the ruins.”
It only remains to say that I hold that the Truth is this: that God created humankind, male and female, Adam and Eve; that Adam and Eve fell, with their progeny, including you and me, and all of Creation; and that redemption of humanity and creation cannot be found but in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, the crucified, resurrected, reigning, and returning Christ; whose merits and sacrifice is received, personally, by repentance and faith. Being justified by faith in Christ, born again unto a new life, brings the harmony we intuitively seek with God, self, others, and Creation. All realms are under the sovereign rule of Jesus Christ. Therefore, no subject of study is exempt from His Lordship.
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