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Commitment to Christian education is not new. Church history tells us that, already in the 1300’s, the Brethren of the Common Life attempted to bring about reforms in the church by means of education. From their schools in the Netherlands and Germany came many men who did much to promote learning and piety in their day. Martin Luther attended one of these schools for a year of his life. Others, including John of Wessel, were pupils of the Brethren of the Common Life, who attacked indulgences and clearly taught the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Of Wessel, Luther said, “If I had read his works beforehand, it might well have seemed that I derived all my ideas from him.” It seems that these schools were committed, not only to academic excellence, but also to the upholding of distinctive religious ideas which fostered the Reformation movement.
Commitment to Christian education in the United States is not new, either. When early settlers came to this country, some of the earliest schools which were established were begun particularly for religious reasons. The “Old Deluder Law of 1647” in the Massachusetts Bay Colony is a noted example. This law was particularly written to establish schools where religion would play a dominant role, so that the “old deluder, Satan,” would not keep men away from the knowledge of the Scriptures.
The forefathers of our denomination have also spent much time and effort in the cause of Christian education (Banner of Truth, December, 1985, p. 16, 17). As members of one denomination today, we have increasingly seen the need to develop schools for our children in order to promote excellence in academics, not only, but also to more clearly meet the spiritual needs of our students, which is our primary concern. We are committed to a Christian education which stresses the need for a regenerating and converting work of Cod. Now, possibly more than at any other time in history, there is a need for us, as a denomination, to establish and continue to support schools which promote a religiously distinctive education for our children.
Commitment to Christian education begins at home. Parents have the primary responsibility to instruct their children. Scripture clearly admonishes parents to teach God’s Word to their children “when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deut. 11:19). How necessary it is to remind ourselves of the need for Christian education at home, since we live in a time when parents are often not at home, or too busy, and, therefore, religious instruction doesn’t exist at all, not even around the dinner table, or at a child’s bedside. Homes must be committed to this vital area of Christian education.
Our schools must reflect this same commitment. In our schools, parents have entrusted the continuance of this education to teachers. There must of necessity be, then, a strong commitment from the teachers in our schools to carry out this responsibility, not only in academics, but also in religious instruction. How is this commitment to be seen in our teachers? What type of persons must our teachers strive to be? Let me particularly note the following things:
1. Our teachers must realize the necessity of being taught by God, which will profit them, as well as students. Religion must be more than a form; students will then realize the high place that it holds in a teacher’s life. Teaching then becomes more than a job; it becomes a life of service. The teachers must love the truth, speak the truth, and not compromise the truth. They must begin each school day with private prayer, since they realize the need for God’s blessing. There is a promise in Proverbs 3:6, “In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”
2. A commitment from our teachers also means that they realize the need to be well-trained in the subject areas that they teach. They are aware of new methods and ideas and constantly seek to improve their training, so that their classrooms will be the best possible places for a learning experience. They know what is important and stress this, but treat the insignificant lightly. They do not operate, as it were, an academic cafeteria, where students are free to pick and choose the insignificant, but students are served a full course meal, with emphasis on basic course instruction.
3. Commitment from teachers is seen in their ambition, their energetic zeal, and in the extra efforts they put forth. They light an educational fire. They give the impression that teaching is a most enjoyable profession.
4. Teachers who are committed to Christian education strive to teach Christian values which are necessary for practical Christian living. Christian teachers must be character builders. Woven into the daily lesson are values such as acknowledgement of God and His Word, respect for parental authority, obedience, attentiveness, contentment, forgiveness, truthfulness, humility, and patience. What good is the math or the social studies, if students have not learned to love, care, and be examples of moral value? Teachers must bring values such as these to the ears of students; the Lord has to make every person willing.
5. Commitment seeks to meet, not only the spiritual and academic needs of students, but also the emotional and physical needs. Genuine love and concern for students are shown. Encouragement is offered and advice given in constructive ways. Teachers must have a forgiving spirit, which seeks no revenge and holds no grudges. They must be honest, admitting mistakes where necessary, and striving to correct problems which occur. They must not be afraid to punish, to draw a clear line, and enforce it. They must demand respect and obedience, but not provoke to anger. They speak, in some sense, as a child thinks, in order to relate more effectively to students’ needs. They treat students as individuals, knowing their particular characteristics. They are good listeners, who observe and then take the proper action. They feel responsibility for whatever is necessary for the welfare of students.
6. Teachers who are committed to Christian education also work well with other staff members and parents. As staff members, they are team players, who promote unity of purpose. They respect the opinion of others and strive to do their share of the load. They learn from the accomplishments of other teachers and compliment others on a job well done. They share knowledge and ideas with others, so that others can improve. They communicate well with parents through notes, newsletters, and telephone calls. When conference time arrives, parents want to come, because teachers are well-prepared with pertinent information to share regarding their children.
7. Our teachers must do more than teach facts, more than instruct in right and wrong, more than show what is acceptable or not acceptable. Teaching involves training; training involves requiring students to do what has been taught. Training demands accountability for responsible action. Abraham had 318 “trained” servants. So must our students be trained by teachers.
Parents have a right to expect commitment from the teachers in our schools, and to hold teachers accountable for the education of their children. But, is there not also a commitment to be expected from parents? I think so. Parents must give their support, as noted in the following particulars:
1. Our schools need the support of parents in sending their children to our schools, unless circumstances make it impossible. When children are present, education begins.
2. Parents must continually bring the needs of our schools before the Lord in prayer. Pray that true religion may be found and may increase in our schools, so that God’s church may be enlarged. Pray that administrators, teachers, staff members, and board members may receive wisdom in the many concerns, challenges, and difficulties which arise. Pray for ability
to meet the changing academic needs of our time. Pray for protection for all those connected with our schools.
3. Parents must also support the decisions made by school boards, administrators, and teachers. Verbal support from parents is often reflected positively in students. Seek to build respect for teachers. When areas of concern develop, follow proper channels of communication. Share these concerns personally with teachers.
4. Support the academic goals of our schools. Keep in contact with teachers, so that homework assignments are completed on time. Be available to help your children with schoolwork, when necessary. Take an active interest in these academic goals. Do you know which achievement tests your school administers? Do you care? Do you know what courses and textbooks are being used? Do you care? Support your particular school by attending parent-teacher conferences and P.T.A. meetings and giving constructive input. By active support of parents in these areas, children, too, realize that their parents care about them.
5. Support your school’s disciplinary procedures. It is only through proper discipline that academic goals can be reached. Parental support in this area is one of the major causes of high teacher morale. Support your teachers with words of encouragement. Get behind your good staffs!
6. Volunteer help is another area of support which is greatly needed in our schools. We need people to help as aides in our libraries and classrooms; we need people to help on various committees, P.T.A. endeavors, hot lunch programs, and fund-raising activities. Volunteers in so many areas help our schools function more efficiently.
7. Support is also needed financially. The growth of our schools has brought about a great need for funding. Parents should make every effort tó meet their tuition obligations, which are a large part of our budgets.
Support for Christian education in our schools must be seen, not only in our teachers and among the parents who are directly involved in sending children to our schools, but also among the many other parents, grandparents, and friends that are a part of our congregations. Commitment doesn’t end with the last child in a family that finishes school, but continues throughout life. Our schools also need your prayers, your volunteer help, your financial support, your gifts of materials and equipment, and your loving contributions in so many aspects of school life.
Christian education in our schools demands sacrifices from all of us. Many times we, as administrators, teachers, parents, and friends ask ourselves how we will be able to perform all of these tasks. May we realize that the wisdom is not in ourselves, but in the Lord. Psalm 37:5 gives encouragement when it says, “Commit thy ways unto the Lord; trust also in Him: and He shall bring it to pass.” Let us keep that which has been committed to our trust as educators, parents, church members, and friends. Who can tell whether the Lord will use our schools, not only to qualify our children for a place in this world, but also to again foster a spiritual revival through education.
Richard Ten Elshof is administrator of Plymouth Christian High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
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Bekijk de hele uitgave van zaterdag 1 maart 1986
The Banner of Truth | 28 Pagina's
Bekijk de hele uitgave van zaterdag 1 maart 1986
The Banner of Truth | 28 Pagina's