Some of these thoughts can be attributed to a devotional that Mario Matos, the Director of COCREF (Colegios Cristianos Reformados) schools in the Dominican Republic led us in last week.
What are the stories that students today dream about? What fascinates them? Who do they pretend to be? What are the dominant themes in their imagination? The answers to these questions help us understand our students and give us ways to ask bigger questions for them. Christian education needs to be focused first and foremost on our students becoming who God created them to be through education and its experiences. Christian educators play a role in the faith development of students who are entrusted to our care.
The question we educators face is how to honour our students as image-bearers and to help them see God’s faithful presence in the world that surrounds us. The Biblical narrative, Scripture, the way we are created all tell the story of who we are, who we are meant to be and how we ought to live with our neighbours (locally and globally). Even though the dominant stories in our culture seem to be about individualism, power, money and fame, somehow the values of community, self-sacrifice, sharing and doing the right thing also have prominence, and we can help our students look beyond themselves to develop these qualities. Exploring what justice looks like, becoming global citizens and capacity builders in others, considering environmental issues and the imbalance of first world markets; all these things can be grounded in the story of who we are as children of God, thriving in communities, loving meaningful work, flourishing as loved participants in learning. We teach students of character who believe in truth, faith, respect, empathy, working hard, sharing, and listening to and honouring others.
What are the practices in your classroom? How do you embody the “way we are together”? Have you classroom norms? Are we proactively naming the ways that we expect our students to be? Could we include our students’ voices in framing how we ought to live together in our classrooms and our schools? School is always about learning, but it cannot be only about content and knowledge: it is incumbent on all of us to help our students grow as people, image-bearers of God, as citizens of the world, as people of character. Can we continue to create learning experiences where students not only learn new material but also learn to become competent, courageous people of faith?
James K. A. Smith, in his book Desiring the Kingdom, talks about developing students who are “peculiar.” These students know that most of what they are sold in our culture, and by extension in the media, is not really “real.” They are students who are more interested in developing relationships with one another and with their communities and neighbourhoods, in caring for those who are less fortunate and who are willing to work for justice and shalom. This is the way of Christ, the way to image-bearing.
Blessings to each of you as you work towards the embodiment of the Kingdom of God!
This reflection comes to you from the Dominican Republic. It is based on a devotional this morning by the Director of Learning of the COCREF schools,
EduDeo has been asked to provide training for about 30 leaders in the COCREF schools on restorative practices and as a result, Anne Martin from Shalem Mental Health Network and myself are providing the first level of IIRP Canada (International Institute for Restorative Practice) training to the leaders/educators of these Dominican schools.
This is the third day of training and Guillermo shared his thoughts on I Corinthians 12:26.
“We often think that those of us who are different from us are difficult. They don’t think the same way, they don’t do things the same way and we feel uncomfortable with them. However, Scripture calls us to be one body (though many parts). How does this happen?
The beauty of difference is the call to understand that the different parts of the body together create a greater whole than its pieces. I may not think the same way as you or do things the same way but the real challenge is to realize that I have an obligation to be connected to you. How can I be connected if I don’t agree with you?
This week, we are learning new ways to speak with each other, new ways to tell the truth in love. If I do not have the courage to learn these new ways, then I will continue to be disconnected to others who are different from me. The real change needs to happen internally with myself. I need to put on new eyeglasses or change my thinking from being adversarial to asking questions. Instead of assuming that the other person will impose their ways of thinking on me, I need to invite conversation, clarification and move into listening.
We need protocols and scripts to help us create safe spaces for people to tell their stories, their ideas, give their critique. We may use “I like; I wonder; I suggest” but sometimes we need facilitators to help us with very difficult situations. The idea is to find ways to build trust and to build community. The idea of restorative practice is to understand that difference can actually grow connection and strength in our communities.
I once had a colleague who I just avoided. I knew he was the contrarian. I avoided talking with him. I didn’t believe he could change. One of my greatest sorrows is that the relationship with him never was healed nor could I ever be honest with him. Restorative practice training would have been so helpful to create a bridge to him.
As we move through these restorative practices training, the goal is become people of love, to know ourselves more clearly, to understand our wounds and to understand others. I look forward to learning more!”
Thanks to Guillermo for his leadership in Christian education and we, the members of Edifide hope that we can continue to create collaborative spaces for our colleagues in the Dominican to share with us and help us to continue to grow and learn and lead.
Many mornings as I drove into school, I remember thinking….”I wonder what will happen today?” Teaching and working with students is unpredictable, messy and surprising. If you were like me, I’d have a plan for the day: what I was going to teach, what I would get done, complete my to-do list, who I’d talk with, which reports I’d write. But the beautiful thing was that I may or may not get to all those things that I had planned AND that would be OK……because in the end….our work is about people, young and old. People do not fit into nice neat little plan books or packages, they don’t follow our schedules nor do they wait for us to be ready. Now…don’t get me wrong. Having lesson plans, writing them down, organizing a to-do list, preparing for each day is crucially important. (I have met some who wonder why bother?) I would just suggest that all our plans cannot outweigh the needs of the people around us.
New Year’s resolutions are just that sort of thing that help us reflect on our lives, our work, our relationships and our plans. It is exciting to wonder about the possibilities of a new year. Is this the year for a birthday milestone? Will this year bring about a new friendship or relationship? Perhaps your plan is to marry, to have a baby, to finish a degree or take a new course or to take a major trip. Whatever the plan, being open to change, wonder, unexpected twists and turns will make the journey adventuresome. Just as planning each day of teaching is important to provide structure and a map so writing down goals and aspirations for a new year is an act of believing into new possibilities. However don’t forget that our goals or ideas may be sidelined due to unforeseen situations, both positive and negative, and that our focus may need adjustment due to those around us. Being prepared is one thing, being open quite another.
Life can be unexpected, it can be both joyous and difficult and it can be so at the same time.
Our trust in the future for this year and the next is well summarized by God’s words to Jeremiah….”For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
May you carry that blessing with you throughout 2016!