Based in Greer, South Carolina, Learning by Faith is a Blog by Cameron Robinson. His posts explore Education, Theology, Faith Formation, and Cultural Issues that have root in unanswered and unexplored areas of faith. He loves the church for what it can be, for what Christ intended.

Discipleship: The Model of Teaching

I spoke with a man who pointed me to the 17th Chapter of John, which is the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus.  I am drawn to the passages that seem almost a benediction to the Disciples. These disciples have not only heard Jesus’ teachings, they have walked with him and studied his mannerisms. They have been fed by him and have eaten dinner together. They’ve walked miles together, been in some tense situations together, and even witnessed miracles. They know Jesus, not simply as a lecturer, but as a teacher.  It is this definition of teacher, the definition of Jesus as teacher, that we so desperately need today, in our homes and in our classrooms. 

“I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours…I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you….I have given them your Word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. …Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:9,11,14-15,17)

Jesus has poured into these 12 disciples. He has loved them and given them everything. He has walked with them and really shown them who he is. They walk away with a full picture and deep awarenesses as to what Jesus would do in certain situations and an even more keen awareness as to his core principles. They are empowered by his life! Even more, it becomes evident from the passage that Jesus in fact loves these disciples. He has given them what he was charged to give them and now he sends them out. He doesn’t hog them, but he sends them out into the world. He doesn’t pray for the world, but he prays for them, because he knows what’s in the world, but he also knows who is in these disciples. 

What would it look like for us to teach our kids in this way? To send them out with confidence? What would it take to create relationships where experts are paired with eager students who “leave their nets and follow” the teacher eagerly? 

Discipleship in the classroom would look like class sizes that allow personal relationship to blossom and vulnerability from educators which would allow students to see the good, the bad, and the ugly. Discipleship in the classroom would involve a nurturing process, a correcting, an imposition of the truth, and the most amazing part: A sending out into the world protected and guided by truth.

I can imagine no greater honor or goal than sending out students into the world armed with Truth and ready to make decisions and create policies with a foundation of Truth.
That would be real teaching: Discipleship. 

To make this happen, class sizes must be reduced, for I know of many educators who would rather teacher “deep than wide.” 

Standards Based Education, although a good intention from the perspective of standardization, continues to treat each human being as though there is no uniqueness or originality in each child. We are robbing educators of the opportunity to educate, to disciple, because 92 is way different than 12.

This isn’t new. Apprenticeships were used often of old. Looking at modern theory about Apprenticeship, one notices that it is the Gradual Release Model of education, where the learner eventually is empowered enough to do the task independently. 

Here is why that doesn’t work: 
Teachers have TOO MANY STUDENTS. A gradual release model essentially ends up being: “You will be able to do this task by yourself, after watching me do it.” It doesn’t allow any customization, therefore it’s simply a lecture that we teach 3 times, saying less each time. That isn’t an apprenticeship. Although they both have similarities, the classroom lacks the opportunity to learn the teacher in addition to the task. My student’s don’t get to study my writing, they are expected to apply my writing instruction to theirs. What if they studied how I write in addition to what I instruct? (We don’t have the time to make this a reality for every student. We do try, though!)

I believe wholeheartedly that discipling students provides them with not just a mentor, but an insight into how the person behaves or exists as a master of a trade or craft. It’s better than a book and better than a lecture. It, the lessons learned from a master craftsmen, becomes a deep investment into who they will become. Discipleship is an important factor in molding future scholars. It is teaching. 

More to come….

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