The kind of faith-integrating teachers we need (Faith and learning in curriculum, part 1)

The blank looks are what really scare me.  As I conduct workshops across North America, I inquire what my audiences know about how to integrate faith and learning in curriculum. I probably could sort responses into three categories: 1) know what I am talking about and have thought about it and are doing it to some degree, 2) know what I am talking and know they should be doing it, but aren’t or are doing it very superficially, and 3) teachers who have little or no training, and really don’t know how to proceed. The disturbing trend over the last five years is that I am seeing the numbers in the first category decrease and the numbers in categories 2 and 3 increase. One of my next questions is if teachers have received any training in integrating faith and learning in curriculum, and again, I am seeing that teachers in Christian schools are coming from a wider variety of college settings and lack the background and foundational understandings needed.

I don’t mean to sound alarmist, but if we lose our ability to reveal God’s truth effectively through our teaching and learning, we are, as I state in the post below this, “one short generation” away from just becoming good Christian people who bring a pietistic, but not world transforming learning experience to our students. We must continue to articulate the master story of Jesus Christ and his creation in engaging ways that leads to personal transformation of our students’ lives and challenges them to a life of discipleship and engagement with God’s world! What does it take to do this effectively?

As I have observed master Christian teachers who do the best job of integrating faith and learning, I see several “astutenesses” and passions in their thinking and behavior.

  1. Spiritual passion – they are alive spiritually and their passion for Jesus Christ “oozes” out of them. Their students have no doubts about their commitment.
  2. Theological understanding – they demonstrate a deep understanding of Scripture and have personally worked through their own big picture understandings of how the master story works in our world.
  3. A student of their students – they know well the age of the student they are working with, what matters to them, how they think, what they believe, and what motivates them.
  4. Culturally aware – they understand what is going on in the world, are keen observers of how worldviews are lived out, offer a prophetic voice to challenge students about their passions and idols, and help students to not only interpret and translate culture, but to create alternative culture that reflects Biblical values.
  5. Masters of their discipline – they know their subject area well, are driven to learn more, know the controversies and issues connected with current thinking in the discipline, have reflected how this subject comes under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and know how to demonstrate and help students connect a Biblical perspective to the field of study.

What are you doing to articulate the master story? What are you doing to challenge others to become this kind of master teacher?

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19 Comments

Filed under Biblical worldview, curriculum, discernment, distinctively Christian, student outcomes

19 responses to “The kind of faith-integrating teachers we need (Faith and learning in curriculum, part 1)

  1. A timely and accurate word about our situation. It’s true and well discerned. Those responsible for Christian School’s vision and mission are to serve and lead in this need. Cast the vision, apply Romans 12:1+, Colossians 1, make relevant connections and applications in the teacher assessment and evaluation process. Spend devotion, meeting time, review conference speaker talks, etc. Whatever is noble and good think on these things. In God’s strength and through the Spirit’s leading it is possible to achieve the vision and mission!

  2. Wayne Dykstra

    Thanks Dan. This is a well rounded description.

  3. pete post

    Thank you Dan,
    I want to direct my education students at Trinity Christian College to consider your questions at the end of the article. These students have been teacher aiding at Elim Christian School where the challenge to bring the Good News to students is even a little more involved since the students there all have special needs. How does one teach faith matters to a youngster with autism or another than can not read or speak because of cerebral palsy? I recently attended a conference sponsored by Joni & Friends at which a woman was taking on the task of translating the Bible into BoardMaker images (basically picture language). We struggled as a group just to create the pictures for John 3:16.
    Bottom line I believe students learn so much from what their teachers model for them – getting splattered by the ooze as you described it. The excitement of genuine faith is contagious – the Holy Spirit sees to that. And I look forward to reading what my students have to say about what they have seen being done in the classrooms of Elim and what they intend to do in their classroom of the future. One qualification for being in special education may be that you must be an optimist and I believe there is always room for faith to grow when nurtured by a loving teacher.

  4. Becky Norgard

    If teachers are going to be teaching in a Christian school, I can’t help but think that they should be implementing the word of Jesus Christ into their lessons. I’m not saying that they have to somehow tie in the gospel story into their math lesson, but there should be definite time set aside for prayer, morning devotions, bible time, and prayer requests. The way the teacher expresses or presents himself/herself to the class is always important. Students “hear” actions just as much if not more, then they do words. Teachers whether they are in a public or Christian school should devote themselves to loving these students just as Christ loves them. When in a Christian school taking every opportunity to tell them about the good news of Jesus Christ will be time well spent!

  5. Audrey

    Hello. I am a student of Professor Post’s and have been aiding at Elim Christian School this semester. I am in an autism classroom where two of the five children are completely nonverbal. Every morning, the children sit at a table and pray with the staff. They also repeat this prayer before going home. They also have Bible study on Friday, and my cooperating teacher said the main point she is trying to convey to her students is that Jesus loves them. I believe that teachers at Elim best show their faith through their interactions with their students. Each child is a valued member of the classroom, and the teacher and staff treat them with Christian love and respect. I think this is the best way we can demonstrate Christ to our students. We need to show them the acceptance and love that Jesus shows us. I plan to teach in a public school, so I know I will need to be careful about overtly spreading the gospel. However, I hope to show Christ’s love to my students, so they may be drawn to Him through me.

  6. Ashley Miedema

    Faith is a very important thing for teachers to be teaching their students. My world revolves around Christ and I want my students to sense the same deep joy and passion I have for serving Christ and being his disciple every day. I am a student in Prof. Post’s class and I am currently teacher aiding at Elim. The students there are taught about Christ through their daily Bible story. The teacher reads a short Bible story to them from a children’s devotional at the beginning of the day, but she does not always relate it to their lives. When I teach, I am going to read my students the stories and then I am going to discuss how they relate to their lives and how they can be a witness for Christ in everything that they do. Some children may have difficulties understanding the Bible stories and the concepts that are explained in them, but I will model the story in many different ways so that they gain a better understanding. I will use pictures and act out the story so that they understand what is going on even if they do not understand the words. I will also model to my students what it looks like to live out the concepts that are in the Bible- concepts such as the Fruit of the Spirit. The word may be vague, but through my actions I can show them what each thing should look like in their lives. I do not know where I will teach- whether it will be a general or special education classroom or a private or public school- but no matter where I am, I am going to live my life for Christ and be a witness for him through my actions.

  7. Allison Stoub

    Hi! I am in Professor Post’s class and like he said I am aiding at Elim Christian School. Becoming the master teacher is a great opportunity to be able to share your faith. In my class that I am aiding at, my teacher lets students decide what type of prayer that they would like after devotions. There favorite type of prayer is sticky note prayer. For this prayer, all of the students receive a sticky note and are able to write down whatever prayer requests they might have. This gives the students time to really think about what is on their hearts at the present time and to be able to offer them up to God. Prayer is a powerful tool and should definitely be incorporated throughout your classroom. What I find encouraging is during devotions my cooperating will stop and let the students ask questions about the devotion that is being read. Most of these questions pertain to further knowledge that can be shared about God. Being able to express your faith and knowledge to students is a great opportunity for every teacher who is passionate about Christ. Someday, God willing, I hope to be put into a school where I am able to share my passion and love for Christ.

  8. Kristi Jendrzejak

    I’m a student from Professor Post class and as he mentioned I teacher aided at Elim Christian School this past semester which is a school for children with special needs. I agree with everyone that through action we can teach students whether they are in general or special education the word and love of Christ. At Elim every morning my class had a set time for devotion, and although all the students were nonverbal, they were given a choice of what they wanted to pray for (i.e. warm clothes, pets, family, etc). Followed by prayer was a bible story or lesson, which the kids loved because they enjoy having stories read to them. Not to mention my teacher had huge posters on the wall which was the class theme for the year that said ‘Jesus loves you.’ As I hope to teach in a public school setting it may be more challenging to spread the word of Christ, but I hope through kindness, love, and compassion that they can find Him in my work.

  9. Victoria Stoklosa

    Hello I am a student at Trinity Christian College and I am in Professor Post’s classroom. I also aide at Elim Christian School and every morning in this special needs classroom where all of the students are non-verbal we all pray together. The teacher asks every student what they would like to pray for that day and each student answers using a device that speaks for them. The teacher then writes the prayer requests on the board for all of the students and the staff. We all then hold hands and bow our heads as the teacher says a prayer and repeats everyones prayers and then one of the students reads a bible verse. I think this is important for the students to do this everyday and to hear what others pray for. I think that it is important for the teacher to teach by showing her students the way to a good heart. Leading by example is the best way to teach all students. Children are very impressionable and need support and guidence so that they can make the best decisions possible for them.

  10. Jim Cummings

    I believe that if teachers are going into Christian schools it is vital that they incorporate Jesus Christ into their lesson plan. I have seen teachers play board games with students on the word of the Lord. We can make learning about Jesus Christ both fun and educational. We do not need to focus on incorporating Jesus Christ into every lesson we have; however, I do feel we should have time set aside every class in which the students do have a lesson of our Lord. I feel that this is not asking too much especially if a teacher is teaching in a Christian school. I believe that it is our job as educators to ensure that our students are learning of the word of the Lord. With us teaching them everyday I believe that we will keep the word going strong.

  11. Ashley

    Hi, I am a student in Professor Post’s class and I think that you raised some very good questions. I grew up in both private school an public school and knew which teachers were Christians were and that were not. In the public school, this came from the way the teachers acted and the way they handled situations. Teachers have a major job of being role models to their students. At a private school, it is easier to include teaching God’s word because often time they have a time that is set apart each day for that. The students in my class at Elim all have autism. They are sometimes difficult to understand and they sometimes get frustrated with the teachers, but the teachers show them love and kindness just like Christ would. They have a time that is devoted to learning about God’s Word and most of the time the students respond best during this portion of the day. It is amazing how the teachers are making an impact on these students. As I enter into the teaching career, I need to remember that I need to live what I believe each and every day.

  12. Melanie Lawrence

    I am a student in Professor Post’s class, and I am currently observing in a class at Elim. Every morning my teacher has time for prayer and devotions. She also teaches the students a bible lesson, and they love it. I believe that teachers in Christian schools need to implement the Word of Jesus Christ into their lessons. I think that it is very important that students spend time doing devotions and spend time in prayer everyday. Teachers also need to be an example to their students. In everything that they do and say, the students should see Jesus’ light shining through them. This is something that a teacher in a Christian school or a public school can do. When I become a teacher, whether it is in a Christian school or public school, I know that I need to set a good example for my students. They shouldn’t have to ask if I am a Christian, they should be able to tell through my words and actions.

  13. Kristin Paarlberg

    Hello, I am also a student in Prof. Post’s class and am teacher-aiding at Elim Christian School. The classroom I am in is made up of all nonverbal students, so we do prayer and devotions every day in a unique way. Each student has a communication device, and one of the overlays is a prayer overlay. The student presses the buttons indicating what he or she would like to pray for that day, and each of the staff share personal prayer requests. The teacher prays a closing prayer, and then continues to show Christ’s love throughout the day simply by displaying a positive attitude towards the students and staff. This is the only Christian school I have had the chance to be in, as I grew up in public school. However, I could always tell if a teacher was a Christian because he or she was always the most respectful toward us as students. I believe that it is not so crucial to have the doctrine correct as it is to listen to each student as a person and treat everyone with respect. Only through your actions can you truly make your classroom one that demonstrates Christ.

  14. Ashley

    Hello, I am a student at Trinity Christian School and I am a Special Education major. As my professor was saying I am teacher aiding at Elim. I am working in the high school in a low incidence room. As a Christian and a future teacher I want my actions and my words to represent Christ in everything I do. I think this is important for my students to see. I think it is also important that we have a prayer in the morning and when it is time to go home because than we are starting out the morning talking to God and ending it thanking him. I think that my faith should be implemented not only in my bible lesson but in every lesson. This is not to say that I would be reading from the Bible in Language Arts but as I said before I want to show the students that my faith is who I am and that it will show in other ways other than just teaching it.
    Thank you
    Ashley Wierema

  15. Jamie King

    Hello. My name is Jamie King and I am a student in Professor Post’s Special Education class. I am currently aiding at Elim Christian School. There are some obvious advantages with working in a Christian School. Every morning they begin the day with a prayer. Then my teacher will go over a quick Bible story with the children. On top of this they pray before they go to lunch everyday and before they leave as well. They also will have an additional Bible activity another day in the week. This is great to be so involved in the word of God and will encourage the students to grow spiritually in school just as well as academically. In a public school however, things might be a little trickier, but it is still important. This is a time where we need to have a tremendous testimony to other by the way we speak, act and interact with others. When our peers or students observe us they should realize that there is something different about us. By doing this, I feel like God will speak to my students and peers and that will be a way for me to challenge others. On top of that, there are extra curricular activities that I could incorporate that deal with religion. My father has been a teacher for 35 years as well as a coach for 20 of them. He would conduct a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting weekly as a tool to articulate the master story. There are always ways to do so, we just need to be mindful of them.

  16. Carissa Trotto

    Hi I am a student of Professor Posts. I am teacher aiding at Elim christian school. I am in a highschool classroom. All the students are verbal however it is very hard to understand alot of them. All the students have different jobs they have to do everyday. One of the jobs is prayers. When it is that students turn they go to the front of the class and ask every student if they have any prayer requests. The teacher writes all the prayer requests on the board and we all say the prayer together. This task takes a long time usually about a half hour but I think it is important to let all the students put their input into the prayer instead of having the teacher say his or her own prayer. Another one of the jobs is the bible verse reader. Their is a verse hanging on the wall using boardmaker and words. The bible verse reader has to point to it as everyone says the verse together. The goal is to have the students have it memorized by Christmas. This is a good example of a classroom that demonstrates Christ on a daily basis and helps the students interact and gain knowledge.

  17. Kristen

    This past semester I have been aiding at Elim Christian School. After being in that classroom for a couple of hours I could already tell that my cooperating teacher was a “master” teacher. In his classroom he teaches a bible lesson about three times a week. I’m not sure if that is required by the school or if that is just what he chooses to do, but either way he is articulating the master story to his students. For these lessons he always comes very prepared. I can tell that he takes the time to carefully think through and plan bible lessons for the students. Each lesson is different as well. He knows he students very well, so he can determine what type of instruction will be the best for them. Sometimes he has fill in the blank notes to go along with the lesson, or sometimes he will have the students act out a bible scene. Each lesson is different and gets the students involved in what they are learning. Not only do the students get involved, but their aides do as well. He tries to get everyone involved as much as he can so that we are all learning about the bible. All of these characteristics demonstrate not only how prepared he is to teach these lessons, but also how much he cares for his students and teaching them about God.

  18. Dave Byma

    Hello. I am a student of Prof. Post’s class. I think teachers who are Christians should be doing all they can to incorporated Christ into the classroom. I have only been in Christian schools in my life so I’m not sure exactly how it looks in a public school but i know that there are restrictions to what a teacher can and can’t do in the classroom when it comes to faith. But even so I still think that a teacher can model what they believe in without blatantly expressing it to the students. The teacher can model the way a Christian should act like and there is nothing wrong with the teacher praying by him/her self before lunch or the day. Even though teachers in a Christian school don’t have to worry about restrictions put on them by the state I still feel that if we are teaching in a public school we can still express the love of Christ through our actions to one another. Sometimes we forget how to do this when we get caught up in school work or there are people hanging over our heads for things but even so we need to remember to keep our heads up, a smile on, and show what the love of Christ looks like for all to see. They might be able to restrict what we say but they can never restrict how we act towards one another.

  19. Victoria

    I am also a student of Professor Post’s and I think this topic is a big deal. First and foremost I think that the best thing you can do is to be an example to your students in your daily walk; inside and out of the classroom. As a teacher you are in the spotlight and your every move will be evaluated. If you are living for God, it will show in your everyday life and it will come through in your classroom to your students. My plan is to open and close every day in prayer, although if I am in a public school, I will not be doing this out loud. In my special ed. classroom at ELIM, we do a daily devotions which I find very important. We also do a lot of “fill-in-the-blank” prayers. The attitudes that are displayed to students and staff are also a very important part of revealing God in our classroom.

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