January 7, 2011

Regents Daily News:
January 7, 2011

“The Teacher Is the Primary Text”

Some months ago I shared a quote in Regents NOW that expresses an important precept for classical education. David Hicks, author of Norms and Nobility, wrote that “The most important thing, therefore, about a classical, Christian education is that faculty members exhibit in themselves the virtues and values that we want to see in our students.  Thus, in the classroom the teacher is the primary text.” This is to say that the teacher is the center of the classroom and that the curriculum is only as good as the teachers who teach it.

Teachers at Regents Academy meet four qualifications: first, they love the Lord Jesus and are committed to His Lordship in their own lives; second, they love families and want to help children and parents grow in faithfulness to God; third, they have the God-given ability to teach; and fourth, they have the appropriate credentials to be in the classroom. But woven into all of this there is a certain disposition – a demeanor or a spirit – that is fitting for the mission of a classical Christian school.

What is the disposition of a classical Christian teacher?

A classical Christian teacher has a spirit of inquiry. She is interested not in punching a clock to earn a paycheck or in “teaching subjects” but in gaining and sharing knolwedge. She is curious about the world, and she herself loves to learn. As the French philosopher Montaigne wrote, “Learning must not only lodge with us; we must marry her.” Classical Christian teachers are married to learning.

A classical Christian teacher is incarnational. That is to say, she incarnates the knowledge, skills, and attitudes she wants to see realized in her students. Our Lord taught us that “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). A classical Christian teacher embraces this principle and seeks to embody that which she would instill in her students.

A classical Christian teacher understands that there is a connection between knowing and doing. The goal is not simply knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Mere knowledge, as St. Paul reminds us, puffs up; only love edifies. Over seven hundred years ago, Bernard of Clairvaux taught that love is the greatest motivation for education. “There are many,” he writes, “who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge: that is curiosity. There are others who desire to know in order that they may themselves be known: that is vanity. Others seek knowledge in order to sell it: that is dishonorable. But there are some who seek knowledge in order to edify others: that is love.”

Finally, a classical Christian teacher is bold when it comes to the truth. A Christian worldview takes all comers – name an “ism,” and a Christian worldview, bolstered with the truth of the Scriptures and emboldened by the Lordship of Christ, stares it down and asserts the truth to its face. A classical Christian teacher is able humbly to follow the truth wherever it leads and stand on God’s Word.

The teachers at Regents Academy are cut from this cloth. They are not a perfect group, but they are energized to strive toward fleshing out this vision for teaching. Please pray for them daily as they endeavor to bring a classical Christian disposition to your children’s classrooms.

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