Institute for Christian Teaching

Education Department of Seventh-day Adventists

 

 

 

 

 

REDEMPTIVE TEACHING: A FRAMEWORK FOR

THE BEGINNING EDUCATOR AND TEACHER RENEWAL

 

 

 

 

by

Saul Torres, Ed. D.

August, 1988

 

 

 

 

033-88 Institute for Christian Teaching

12501 Old Columbia Pike

Silver Spring Md 20904, USA

 

Welcome to the teaching profession! Ellen G. White says of teaching that, "It is the nicest work ever assumed by men and women to deal with youthful minds. The greatest care should be taken in the education of youth to so vary the manner of instruction as to call forth the high and noble powers of the mind." (1923, p. 15)

Teachers are vital agents in the process of integration of faith and learning and life for all the students they interact with in the living classroom. Pivotal to the contribution of each teacher is his or her fundamental vision of Christian education, dynamics in the teaching process and reflections about teaching.

This framework is directed to those who are initiating the planning of their preservice teaching experience, those who are trying to find greater meaning and relevance in their first years of Christian teaching adventure, and to those teacher educators that often see the need of clarifying the focus in the integration of faith and learning in their teacher training activities.

 

REDEMPTIVE VISION OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION

We invite you to key your teaching perspectives and experiences into a vital definition. Redemptive Teaching is defined here as the Christian teacher's reflective, principled and dynamic sharing of conceptual skills and knowledge with the goal of fostering vital restorative insights and outcomes.

Since 1872 Adventist education's thrust has been guided by the belief that in knowledge of God all true knowledge and real development has its source. Therefore, wherever we turn, the physical, the mental, or the spiritual realm; in whatever we behold, apart from the blight of sin, God's truth is revealed (White, 1903). We share the concept that he who cooperates with the divine purpose in imparting to the youth acknowledge of God and molding the character into harmony with His, does a high and noble work. The object of education and of life is to restore in man the image of his Maker--this was to be the work of redemption.

The professional competence of a teacher, as suggested by Hoover (1977), ultimately rests on his or her ability to anticipate student needs and behaviors in advance of the actual experience. Instructional preparation, then, involves applied imagination and concepts in planning for the experience. Once basic concepts have been identified, instructional aims or purposes can be developed. Concepts or mental images transfer readily from one situation to another and so become the foundations of all instruction.

Concepts help us to clarify or analyze; they help us associate or combine as well; these mental images gain meaning from subsequent experiences. As meaning becomes fully established we develop feelings about an idea or concept (Hoover, 1977, p. 3). The Redemptive Teaching concepts shine out of the vision of Christian education that centers on the life of Jesus, the teacher sent from God. In Jesus' perfect integration of faith, learning and life, we can glean the following insights (White, 1903):

1. Redemptive Needs- Jesus denounced evil as the foe of those whom He was seeking to bless and to save.

In every son of God, He beheld a human being, however fallen. He beheld a son of God, one who might be restored to the privilege of His divine relationship. Wherever there existed a sense of need, there He saw opportunity for uplifting. Souls tempted, defeated, feeling themselves lost, ready to perish, He met, not with denunciation, but with blessing. In an understanding of the Person, He showed that only through sympathy, faith and love can men be reached and uplifted. Here Christ stands revealed as the Master Teacher: of all that ever dwelt on the earth, He alone has perfect understanding of the human soul. In every human being he discerned infinite possibilities. He saw men as they might be transfigured by His grace. (p. 78-80)

 

2.      Redemptive Teaching Christ's teaching, like His sympathies, embraced the world.

Never can there be a circumstance of life, a crisis in human experience, which has not been anticipated in His teaching, and for which its principles have not a lesson. In His teaching were embraced the things of time and the things of eternity--things seen, in their relation to thing unseen, the passing incidents of common life and the solemn issues of life to come. His teaching caused the things of creation to stand out in a new light. Upon the face of nature once more rested gleamings of that brightness which sin had banished. In all the facts and experiences of life were revealed a divine lesson and the possibility of divine companionship. He did not deal in abstract theories, but in that which is essential to the development of character; that which will enlarge man's capacity for knowing God, and increase His power to do good. He spoke of those truths that relate to the conduct of life and that unite man with eternity (p. 81).

 

REDEMPTIVE TEACHING IS REFLECTIVE

To be reflective is to be thoughtful, giving careful consideration or fixing of the thoughts on something. Cruickshank (1987) suggests that teachers prepared mainly for initial practice may be able to cope sufficiently with life as a beginning teacher, but they may not prosper over time when they have not developed higher level thinking skills with regard to their teaching. He adds:

Such teachers may be adequate or even good in the immediate situation, but not wise: good in that they are technically able--that is, they can write behavioral objectives, organize teaching episodes, frame higher-order questions, use instructional technology, and apply principles of operant conditioning---but not wise in that they understand neither why they are doing what they are doing nor when suitably to employ technical skills. (1987, pp. 1-2)

 

Valverde (1982) operationally suggests that the reflective modality relates to an individual's self-monitoring or satisfaction with effectiveness. "As in any type of evaluation, reflection should be formative, that is, periodic, constructive and deliberate." (p. 86). Cruickshank quotes Dewey (1904), to recall that it is more important to make teachers "thoughtful and alert students of education than it is to help them get immediate proficiency." (1987, p. 1)

The reflective notion or inquiry-oriented approach appears to be gaining popularity in the professional literature. Zeichner and Liston (1987, 1985?) that have been concerned with elaborating a reflective approach for some time now, offer their critique in order to extend their own analysis, when they propose (1988?) that future teachers ought to analyze and reflect on (1) the pedagogical and curricular means used to attain educational aims, (2) the underlying assumptions and consequences of pedagogical action, and (3) the moral implications of pedagogical action and the structure of schooling. These aspects are surely very important. Nevertheless, the Christian teacher must focus his or her pivotal reflective energy on how these most valuable educational aspects integrate with Christian faith and learning.

Educational thought must take account of four common places of equal rank: the learner, the teacher, the milieu, and the subject matter.

These important areas intersect at teaching. The redemptive concept interacts with each one of these in a vibrant and productive manner. The definition guiding our renewal points to a reflective, principled and dynamic sharing of significant experiences and knowledge with the goal of developing in students basic restorative insights and outcomes. This definition readily implies a moral relationship between student and teacher.

An argument for a working definition of teaching as a moral craft can be a valuable guide for widening our insights. Alan R. Tom (1984) does not restrict "moral" to questions of right and wrong actions or behaviors but directs our thoughts to more general questions of valuation: What really matters during one's life? During one's career? During the next day or two? To what end does one pursue a particular activity?

When we move to the situations involved in teaching the case for carefully analyzing and reflecting on desired ends is persuasive and vital for the Christian teacher. The ends relating to social-moral situations are more and more legitimately subject to new public scrutiny. That teaching is an intentional activity designed to bring about desired student learning and is a view supported by a variety of educators. Even Dewey (1956), explicitly recognized the vital obligation of the teacher to reflect on desired ends.

To be reflective is to give your task careful consideration. Indeed, we give careful consideration to many things as we think of teaching, but what are the priority matters for the reflective Christian teacher?

God Makes Himself And His Plan Known

Aware of human intellectual limitations, man still has a driving desire to uncover the meaning of life. Is the Creator-God one who is willing to make a revelation of Himself to finite beings on a level at which they can understand? It seems more probable in the context of the environmental purposeful seen by the Christian and intelligibility that the Creator-God would break through to man in his finiteness (Knight, 1980). Since God is the source of all true knowledge, it is the first object of education to direct our minds to His own revelation of Himself (White, 1903, p. 16).


Christians have seen this self-revelation in terms of sacred writings that claim divine source. This revelation highlights a framework in which to view the predicament of the human existence. The Bible is accepted as a self-revelation of the Creator through Jesus Christ. The teacher who has a right understanding of the work of true education will not think it sufficient to make only a casual reference to the life of Christ.

Christian education solidly acknowledged (1) the activity of the Holy Spirit, from whom proceeds divine knowledge of the living God, in the biblical plan of restoring God's image in fallen man; (2) His work in the calling out of the community of believers; and (3) the eventual restoration of this earth and its faithful inhabitants to the Eden school again.

The Christian worldview of reality has redemptive teaching dimensions. Christian schools have been established because God exists and has revealed a purpose in restoration. Every aspect of Christian education is determined by the Christian view of reality and milieu. "Teacher, tell your students that the Lord Jesus Christ has made every provision that they should go onward, conquering and to conquer. Lead them to trust in the divine promises: "If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." (White, 1923, p. 437). Teachers should not stop here, but should give special attention to the cultivation of the weaker faculties, that all the powers may be brought into exercise and carried forward from one degree of strength to another, that the mind may attain due proportions. (White 1903)

Christian metaphysics not only justifies and determines the existence, curriculum and social role of Christian schools, but it also explicates the nature and potential of the learner, suggests the most beneficial types of relationships between teacher and their students, and provides criteria for the selection of methods that would harmonize with the vision of God's educational plans. (Knight, 1980)

Questions for Reflection

The following questions are not exhaustive in their scope. They are suggested to help you focus your thoughts and planning on the exciting dimensions that are primary in the redemptive teaching concept. These questions should be answered using real or model situations. You are encouraged to give each one careful, thoughtful consideration with an eye to increasing your understanding of the phenomenon of teaching and yourself as a teacher. You can begin to plan alternatives within your future experiences, rather than sharing in the classroom by impulse, tradition and authority. You can be reflective and deliberate in your actions with open-mindedness, wholeheartedness and intellectual responsibility as a Christian, "always with the goal of directing (your) actions with foresight and (planning) according to ends in view or purposes of which (you) are aware . . ." (Dewey, 1933). The aim is to help you to become a thoughtful student of Christian teaching. Reflection means asking basic questions to oneself.

1.          How will I facilitate God's plan for each student?

2.          What principles has Jesus given in God's Word that can best relate to these situations? Suggest two (2) of your own examples.

3.          How will I be integrating the class aims and desired outcomes with the Christian worldview? Are there any discrepancies in the worldview suggested by the class topic that should be put in a Christian perspective?

4.          How will I coordinate the informal curricular activities with a view to fostering the harmonious development of the physical, mental and spiritual?

5.          How will I determine whether these purposes are being attained?

Case Study: "Kid's and Potted Plants"

Shaver and Strong (1982, pp. 43-45) have developed the following case. It's presented here as an opportunity for you to integrate your concepts of Redemptive Teaching into your own thinking about children, school and educational goals as a Christian teacher. Read the case and in writing, (1) identify Mrs. Ashcroft's teaching concepts, (2) enumerate the Christian concepts that are relevant or at risk in the situation, (3) plan your own redemptive teaching strategies to anticipate the challenges of the following week, (4) how you would solve similar conflicts if your best plans seem to have failed. Share your thoughts with an experienced Christian teacher at the end of the exercise.

I guess I had the first ominous twinge of Mrs. Ashcroft, a woman in her late forties, as she was busily at work lining up desks along the gray and white tile lines. The students had just be dismissed for lunch.

"These kids', she sighed. "Sometimes I think they're nothing but wild animals. Just look this mess they leave!"

I blinked and tried to find the mess. What I saw were even rows of desks and books neat shelved. Mrs. Ashcroft's potted plants were lined like sentries along the window ledge, flanked two printed signs that read "Do Not Touch." She picked up a scrap of paper and shelved dictionary. "There," she said. "That's better."


I soon discovered that Mrs. Ashcroft's universe was one where everything--and everyone--had in place. Her grade book, her desk, her time schedule--all were laid out with care and precise. Each student knew the schedule of activities and understood that this schedule was fix, unchanging; each knew the specific place for various kinds of assignments, the deadlines, procedures for makeup work, and the penalties for failing to observe manuscript conventions; knew that the program of study moved straight through the text, lesson by lesson, and that quest not pertinent to the current reading upset Mrs. Ashcroft.

About a week after I had that first twinge of uneasiness, Mrs. Ashcroft and I had a talk about my ideas for student teaching. I had submitted a unit plan to her, and we were going over it.

"About this group work," she said. ""I think you'll find that youngsters take advantage of kind of situation. They need a very definite structure, you see. And I think you'll find that do better and like it better if they move along at the same rate. That makes things easier to manage, too."

I chose my words with care. "Well, I'm hoping to provide some structure in the groups," I said "Each group will have a chairman, and ..."

"That's good in theory," Mrs. Ashcroft interrupted. "But it's difficult to maintain a good atmosphere with a lot of confusion. These youngsters definitely need a sense of order--they think things laid out for them. If you let the students start going off in all directions, you have circus and discipline problems. Your job is to control and teach these youngsters, not run a circus. ."

"I definitely don't want a circus," I murmured. "What I want is to promote involvement. I hope that some groups will need to have things laid out for them, but I'm also hoping that some youngsters will get involved and do more than just enough to get by."

Mr. Ashcroft shook her head. A small sigh escaped between her teeth as she looked at plants again. "I don't see you how you expect to keep track of all this, " she said. "You'll have all over the room, working on different levels."

I'm willing to give it a try." I winked, testing a grin on her.

Mrs. Ashcroft didn't smile back. "And because you can't plan this kind of program out of advance," she added, "it's bound to be disorganized and chaotic. I'm afraid it will be a experience for the students."

Silence.

"I know that all the details haven't been nailed down," I admitted. "It just seems to me that the students will be more likely to learn if they have a say in some of the directions we take."

Mrs. Ashcroft turned to the window ledge. "After all, you don't ask the plants whether they need water. It's your job--your responsibility--to provide what they need."

I closed my planning book and looked Mrs. Ashcroft in the eye. "We certainly see this differently," I said.

After reading this case (1) Identify your reactions to Mrs. Ashcroft's teaching concepts, (2) Enumerate the Christian concepts that are relevant or at risk in the situation, (3) Plan your redemptive teaching strategies to anticipate the challenges of the following week, (4) Think about how you would solve conflicts if your best plans would seem to fail. Share your thoughts with an experienced Christian teacher.

 

REDEMPTIVE TEACHING IS PRINCIPLED

Principled is being characterized by principle, usually of a high and proper nature. Redemptive teaching must follow an orderly and responsible approach. God has set up an orderly world and has given us the abilities to discover systems, general rules of learning and even individual differences that make our task very interesting.

Personal Christian Growth

The first principle for the Christian teacher is personal growth in the spiritual life.

To know one's self is a great knowledge. True self-knowledge will lead to a humility that will allow the Lord to train the mind, and mold and discipline the character. The grace of humility is greatly needed by the workers for Christ in this period of the world's history. No teacher can do acceptable work who does not bear in mind his own deficiencies and who does not drop out from his reckoning all plans that will weaken his spiritual life. When teachers are willing to drop out from their work everything that is unessential for the life eternal, then they can be said to be working out their salvation with fear and trembling, and to be building wisely for eternity." (White, 1923, p. 525)

Principles of Learning

Marczely (1988), in her article, "Teacher Education, A View from the Front Lines," has synthesized some of the vital points when she says that good teaching is not merely the dissemination of factual knowledge; good teaching depends on knowing how learning occurs, knowing that there is no best way to teach, recognizing different learning styles and adapting to them.

Let's focus for a moment on how learning takes place or the basic aspects that characterize learning. Learning is indeed a complex process and there are many important theories that you have already learned. In summary, it would be well to remember that learning requires developmental experiences and interaction with information. It will include the following processes and related activities or operational goals and objectives that appear under each heading in a progressive manner:

Receiving information Processing information Expressing information

reading interviewing writing

observing contrasting discussing

examining describing constructing

viewing comparing explaining

collecting data measuring illustrating

 

Remember that feedback or evaluation is vital to learning principle. It is important to evaluate the progress of the student toward achieving the objectives in every area of learning. The evaluation should go beyond the facts learned. If we deal only with facts, we may be doing the kind of thing the priests and rulers of Jesus' day did whey they studies the Scriptures.

We are looking for growth, based upon an increasing understanding of the kind of God we meet in our Bible study. An anecdotal evaluation, based on the child's signs of growth in interest, participation, and spontaneous acts, would be helpful. Some questions to ask as you evaluate:

Does the student participate in discussions?

Does he ask questions?

Has he shown progress in possible problem areas? These may include such things as speaking without thinking, basing conclusions on inadequate evidence, clinging to traditional rather than investigating new truths, and finding difficult in articulating his convictions.

Do his responses indicate growing awareness of the character of God?

Christian values are to be shared by precept and example. The student's choosing process is a principle to be stressed in your preparation for teaching. It will be part of the restorative goal of teaching by allowing the child to exercise his God-given ability to choose freely after examining alternatives and then acting upon his choices. God has made people to be rational thinkers; it is therefore His desire not that they learn from their wrong choices, as well as from their right ones. God does not rush this process. Neither should we. In the direct or indirect interaction at the "choice" level we should respect the child's God-given ability of discernment at each developmental phase. Encourage students to give data to support their conclusions. Expect students to be cautious in responding to valuing exercises. But remember that spiritual power, a perception of light, a desire for goodness, exists in every heart (White, 1903). It takes time to build trust in a classroom. Students feel that they can trust one another and the teacher. To build trust take these steps, recommended by K-12 Bible program of the General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists in God Is Like This (1981):

1.                  Manifest acceptance of a student's response in a valuing exercise.

2.                  Avoid praise or censure of the student's information, opinions, behavior, or values.

3.                  Allow a student to say, "I'm not ready to take a position."

4.                  Discuss the destructive nature of students' making negative comments about one another, even in jest.

5.                  Risk self-disclosure of your own thoughts and feelings to create a climate of openness and oneness.

 

Every educator is concerned with improving the academic success of students. The Christian teacher understandably will want to go beyond, but it is basic too that we want students to be able to learn and to apply knowledge in the various subject areas of the curriculum. And yet for all our efforts, we have student who cannot learn as fast. Learning problems frequently are not related to the difficulty of the subject matter, but rather to the type and level of the cognitive processes required to learn the material (Keefe, 1988).

Learning is a conscious, controlled and directed cognitive activity. Decisions need to be made and recognized by the teacher. Four decisions are made that can be repeated or changed at every stage of processing. These decisions are to reject, to transform, to memorize, and to learn.

Teaching Style and Interaction

Teacher and student personality variables are also to be considered within the principles that affect learning in an important way. On the teacher personality variable, one of the most revealing investigations is reported by Hamachek (1973). He states that the four most frequently mentioned reasons for liking a teacher are the following:

1.                  Is helpful in schoolwork, explains lessons and assignments clearly, and uses examples in teaching (51%).

2.                  Cheerful, happy, good-natured, jolly; has sense of humor and can take a joke (40%).

3.                  Human, friendly, companionable, "one of us"(30%).

4.                  Interested in and understands students (26%).

 

On teacher interaction styles these elements consistently come out:

The teacher was able to provide spontaneously a range of roles that varied from fairly active, control of supervision to a reflective discriminating support, able to switch roles, diagnose a given situation and action, and combine sensitivity and critical awareness of conditions (p.11-12).

Student learning styles is a key factor in this dimension. Studies in academic contexts have demonstrated that field dependence or sensitivity is a significant variable in students learning and decision making (Claxton and Murrell, 1987). This variable is identified by Wilkins (1976) even in the selection of major, course and careers. For example, field-dependent students favor areas that call for more extensive interpersonal relations, such as social science, the humanities, counseling, teaching and sales. A substantial body of research on elementary and secondary teachers suggests that those in mathematics and science are more likely to be field independent, while social science teachers are more likely to be field dependent.

Research tends to be more inclined in the direction that learning would be greatly enhanced when teacher and student teaching-learning styles are matched in terms of teaching methods or level of structure in designing classroom experiences. Further, the possibility of teachers' greater reliance on "field sensitive methods," Which might roughly be labeled such methods as class discussion, simulations, and work in small groups, is also in keeping with the current call for greater emphasis in the classroom on collaborative learning (Bruffee, 1987).

To educate the whole person, to encourage disciplined learning and the quest for excellence is a sacred trust. The educator's task is to inspire and equip individuals to think and act for themselves in the dignity of persons created in God's image. There is no room here for a dichotomy between what is secular and what is sacred, for everything about people created in God's image belong to God--that is, it is sacred (Holmes, 1975).

Principles of Integration

The principle of integration stems from our recognition and application of the fundamental worldview of Christianity as declared briefly earlier. The initial elements that give thrust to the wholistic integration process for redemptive teaching can be summed up in pointing to creation, fall-redemption, revelation, and restoration for the human race. More elements can be added to our list as we become stewards of God's eternal plan and we see His hand in life history, science and the arts.

In the teacher's stewardship framework we are to see the tasks before us as responsible and creative cultural beings. Our educational mandate recognizes students as basically reflective, thinking beings that need to establish significant restorative relationships in all the areas of curriculum. To be reflective in Holmes (1975) synthesis is to see things in relationship, to organize ideas into an ordered whole, to be systematic, to work toward a unified understanding.

Three educational implications follow for the integration process. First, interdisciplinary approaches to learning are important. Second, theoretical questions are unavoidable because humans alone in creation are theorizing beings who extrapolate beyond the known and speculate about the unknown, formulate hypotheses for science to explore, and imagine new worlds for art to create. Third, worldviews must be examined and shaped, for we still strive to see things whole, however imperfectly we envision that unity of truth which we all seek (Holmes, 1975, p. 30).

In integration a sense of history is also important, for people shape history for better or for worse. Our students will be and are now part of that process. We are in fact history-makers by the way our actions contribute to the future of society, the family, the nation, the church, the economy or to the development of art and science. Appreciation grasps the continuity of a heritage from the past into the present. The other goal is creative participation in the future. Schools are a place of learning and a place to develop a sense of direction growing out of roots in the past. Christian teachers help shape far-sighted individuals with good goals which can lead to intelligent, creative and strategic action.

Self-Evaluation Principles

Cruickshank (1985) reminds us that a reflective teaching concepts goal is to help participants learn to evaluate their own teaching behavior and thus become more effective teachers. The following self-evaluation list suggested by Olds (1983), is of worth in this context:

1.                  Do you understand and apply readiness principles?

2.                  Do you provide favorable success-failure ratio for each student?

3.                  Do you plan skillfully for an effective teaching-learning situation?

4.                  Do you individualize instruction where appropriate?

5.                  Do you facilitate student motivation toward academic and social achievement?

6.                  Do you facilitate intellectual, motor-skills and values development?

7.                  Do you use effective reinforcement techniques?

8.                  Do you state and assess behavioral objectives effectively and efficiently?

9.                  Do you accurately interpret obtained scores on tests and use the information to improve the conditions of learning?

10.              Do you establish a democratic classroom atmosphere?

11.              Do you guide peer interactions effectively?

12.              Do you adjust values integration activities to group level of development?

13.              Do you adapt classroom activities to the student who is a typical in terms of social skills?

14.              Do you facilitate development of moral character and moral behavior?

15.              Do you recognize symptoms of poor adjustment?

16.              Do you reduce disabling levels of anxiety?

17.              Do you strengthen weak skill areas as an aid to adjustment?

18.              Do you communicate information and suggestions to parents and colleagues about the intellectual, social, emotional and spiritual development of his or her students?

 

REDEMPTIVE TEACHING IS DYNAMIC

Dynamic is powerful active energy and an energetic producer of change or behavior. Susan Ohanian (1988), in talking to us from the classroom perspective, well advises all readers that teaching is dynamic and personal, even too metaphysical to be charted like the daily temperature. She adds:

What counts is attitude and endeavor. That's why, even when we try, we often can't pass on a terrific lesson plan to a friend; we probably can't even save it for ourselves to use again next year. It's virtually impossible to teach the same lesson twice (p. 700).

 

Metaphors are common in the educational literature for thinking about teaching and curriculum. Kliebard (1972) suggests there are at least three metaphors: production, growth and travel. When we think of production, the student is seen as raw material to be transformed into a useful product under the direction of a skilled technician and scientist, the teacher. In contract to the production metaphor, the growth view employs a gardening perspective. The curriculum and the school are like a greenhouse in which each student grows to realize his or her inherent potential. As a patient and skillful gardener the teacher fosters the development of each student along the lines of their unique needs and is careful not to impose too much on the educational process.

The third metaphor, the travel metaphor, suggests that the curriculum is a path over which the student will travel under the guidance of an experienced and sensitive companion. Each traveler is affected differently by the unfolding adventure, an outcome that is not only inevitable but even desirable. The teacher-guide task is to plot a journey that will be as rich and meaningful as possible. All three views have a variety of interesting potential for transferring a rich set of meanings to the task of the Christian teacher. Which one is most suggestive for your own creative thinking and dynamic energy? To all readers, Ohanian (1988) admonishes after many years of teaching experiences:

We teachers frequently complain that education courses do not prepare us for the rigorous, confusing work ahead--that they do not show us how to run our classrooms. We refuse to admit that no course manual can give us all the help we crave . . .There is no instant, stir-and serve recipe for running a classroom. We need a sense of purpose from our professors, not a timetable. Better that they show us a way to find our own ways than that they handout their own detailed maps of the territory . . .I nominate the professors to scout ahead, chart the waters, post the quicksand. I know that I still have to climb my own mountain, but I would welcome scholarly advice about the climbing conditions (p. 698).

 

In James Rowley's dynamic illustration of the elements of adventure in teaching, four positive Christian life elements come out to me in an interesting way. Rowley (1988) suggests four specific and interrelated factors that surface in an outdoor adventure metaphor: a spirit of cooperation, high levels of engagement, the capacity to deal with dissonance, and the emergence of shared meaning. How do these elements fit in or are to be found in a Christian teacher's view of God's plan made known to us? How has your own Christian adventure touched on these experiences? What is happening in your classroom?

When young people begin an outdoor, wilderness adventure experience, they bring with them an attitude that defines the way in which they expect to interact with others. Some perceive the adventure experience as an opportunity to demonstrate their superior strength, knowledge and skill. Many fully expect to be winners, or perhaps the hope to avoid being losers. Others come with an individualistic perspective and their goals do not relate to the other members of the group. However, participants are soon confronted with the reality that the outdoor adventure also demands that they consider the value of cooperative efforts: helping someone build a campfire means that everyone who is hungry eats sooner. Stopping to help someone who is struggling with a bad portage may mean that the whole group will get to camp earlier. Such efforts enable group members to celebrate collective achievement while allowing room for individual successes and failures. Christian teaching and learning like outdoor adventures must build or integrate the spirit of cooperation into its program. As you look into tomorrow's challenge and God's given opportunities of stewardship, plan and practice for cooperation in the classroom's sharing dynamic. It will not only affirm your commitment to practice and reflect on cooperative efforts but you can also actually experience its power.

Will ankles hold up? What if the individual falls and is unable to carry the load? These fears and others, real and imagined, are a part of the adventure experience. They are the source of dissonance, anxiety, and doubt, but when beaten they are the source of achievement, satisfaction and an expanded sense of self-efficacy (Bandura, 1977). The good guide builds that sense of self-efficacy by helping each participant attribute success to the development of abilities, effort and discovering God's leading in his or her life.

The adventure experience invites, and frequently demands, high levels of engagement. Participants who choose to take part in an adventure outing may or may not anticipate the amount of physical and mental energy that they will be required to expend if they are to experience success. However, once they are in the wilderness, they are soon confronted with new knowledge, skills, and attitudes, which they must quickly process and practice if they are to avoid failure. In many cases, they newly acquired information must be applied immediately to situations that may well involve some degree of real or perceived risk.

The good guide understands the importance of creating a learning environment where there is a balance between newly acquired knowledge and skills and the real life challenges against which they are tested.

When there is a balance between boredom and anxiety, and when the challenges confronted are real as well as appropriate to the skills, knowledge, and attitudes of the participant. The physical or mental work becomes more like play. This is likely the phenomenon that young people use to describe fun (Czikszentmihalyi, 1978).

Successful teachers recognize the necessity of creating learning experiences that are meaningful to the life of the student. Similarly,

Teacher educators can promote "meaningfulness" only to the extent that they provide models of the teaching behaviors related to fundamental programmatic assumptions. Developing clinical and laboratory experiences that engage pre-service students in inquiring into real-world, professional problems clearly related to their future lives as teachers represents two exciting instructional approaches. Especially promising are efforts to develop case studies: Reflective Teaching lessons, and microteaching experiences that are designed and coordinated to engage both students and teacher in the thoughtful examination of meaningful questions and issues (Rowley, 1988, p. 15).

 

The nature of the adventure experience is such that it can, and often does, have a kind of bonding effect on the participants. By sharing the physical challenges, the moments of beauty, the humorous events, or the common struggle to master new skills, the participants frequently develop camaraderie. This is not to ignore the fact that the experience has had important personal meaning as well. However, there is something special, and perhaps unforgettable, about a shared feeling that says, "We did this together."

What is the process that allows such a shred understanding to emerge? It is important to recognize the significance of the term "emerge." Shared meaning evolves overtime and only as a result of shared experience. The guide who begins an expedition by attempting to impose his or her interpretation of what the experience will mean on the group fails to understand the important role that only time can play.

Restorative Goal

Tracing the meaning of pedagogue uncovers two notions: empowering and guiding. Both of these relate to redemptive teaching. As a pedagogue, the teacher unlocks the minds doorway, so to speak, allowing the student to see the self, develop an identity and realize dreams (White-Hood, 1988).

We must begin with beginnings--reflecting on your own (1) past encounters, (2) significant events in life, (3) personal Christian goals and wants. Then, focus on your feelings about children and adolescents, ideas about the teaching role and the mission for your area of concentration in education.

The restorative goal must develop a keen eye, in order to set up the necessary tone, for respect, character-building, decision-making, worldview comparatives and open communication. This democratic leadership can be exhibited or translated as group care-giving, redemptive discipline, managerial skills and with time transforms. The thinking, being deciding and striving will not stop at the course's end.

In the words of Marian White-Hood there is light from a restorative experience, when she says,

My hopes and wishes emerged for the student to see, hear and feel. As a teacher, we are people too, it's just that we like kinds more than anybody else. It is the bond that carries tiny messages called information; it is the key to empowerment. (1988, pp. 213-214)

 

Welcome Christ to your teaching adventure and make his plan known.

He came to show how men and women are to be trained as befits the sons of God; how on earth they are to practice the principles and to live the life of heaven (White, 1903).

 

Welcome, again to the teaching profession!

 

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