Human beings, as the crown of the creation sequence in Genesis 1, are endowed with certain attributes (made in the image of God) and responsibilities (rule over creation). As a result, the educational process should enable students to grow into mature individuals, and by extension, empower societies to establish sustainable systems of governance for the common good.
The world we inhabit is comprised of math, science, art, language, music, history, economics, religion, politics, and health. The biblical narrative touches on some of those subjects, but to discover the splendor of Christian education one must see the larger theme of all things being reconciled to God.
That grand image, in my opinion, is what gives the Christian educator the hope, patience, and perseverance that is necessary to faithfully help students master various and complex subjects. Students who are taught by educators with exemplary knowledge and character in an educational system that understands itself as one of the means to that end will make great inroads toward fulfilling Jesus' prayer of heaven's rule spreading throughout the earth.
Education in this vein is produced most effectively in environments characterized by trust, knowledge, practice, vitality, and achievement. Each of these is a facet in the jewel of Christian education.
Trust is gained by authentically and lovingly accepting students for who they are: precious individuals, stamped with the indelible image of God, who have families, hopes, fears, interests, needs, hurts, desires, and habits.
Knowledge is arrived at through the three-fold process of dispensing information, discussing among peers, and discovering through hands-on experiences. The classroom provides a safe place for students to comprehend information or hone skills they did not previously know or have.
Practice is essential because it is germane to all personal growth. Students should sense the freedom to try, fail, and try again. As the challenges grow more complex, so the solutions become less simplistic. Therefore, students should be reminded that failure does not mean getting an answer incorrect; failure means quitting the learning process altogether.
Vitality denotes life and growth, and it connotes enthusiasm, exhilaration, and exuberance. Curiously, in a world of immense beauty and intrigue I seldom hear of learning environments teeming with vitality. Instead, students are too often left to speak of environments that are passionless, meaningless, and, ultimately, lifeless. Learning can and should be enjoyable and life-giving.
Achievement is a necessary part of any strategy that seeks to keep people engaged and returning for more. Students want to do well for themselves, for their parents, and for their teachers, so the learning environment should provide multiple ways for students to sense achievement. With achievement comes confidence, and with confidence comes additional actions that lead to even greater achievements.
The presence of these five elements in the educational environment, then, creates an ever-expanding cycle that spins toward the glory of God and the joy of students.
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