As a educator who began my career in special education, I was trained in the diagnostic-prescriptive approach: identify the problem, find an effective strategy, and try to remediate the deficit. A focus on deficits can become a problem – we are trained as educators to always be on the lookout for deficits, for problems, and not for the larger picture of abundance and possibility. My question then is: is it right for us as Christian teachers to always be focusing on what is wrong, finding flaws, identifying misunderstandings, and critiquing performances? Will we ever be happy anyway? Are we monitoring ourselves so that we keep this in balance with seeing gifts, possibilities, and focusing on the good, the lovely, and the true?
Many of the professions are trained to deal with problems: dentists with cavities in teeth, physicians with disease and malfunction, social workers with emotional scars, and attorneys with sins of omission and commission. Teaching is unique in the amount of time that can be spent in focusing on encouragement and possibilities. As Christian teachers, we need to intentionally point out to students the abundance of God’s great creation, as well as the abundance of his grace and love to us. We will also want them to know the possibility and promise we see in them as image-bearers, and in the lives and opportunities they have been given.