If you are Christian Educator, you are an idealist by nature. In your mind, students should have a passionate/ burning desire to learn. You want your classes abuzz with vibrant discussion and thought provoking dialogue. You expect your students to be fully prepared coming into every class. Even more, as the teacher, you hope that they come with questions that challenge you and push you to become a better communicator of truth.
At least this was my mindset entering into a teaching career. But after a few years of teaching, I was completely disabused of my idealist tendencies. None of my expectations panned out. I found that students were often frustrated with the learning process. My classes were not vibrant centers for discussion and thought provoking dialogue. Students (the majority of them) were not prepared for class. And as for being challenged by my students, I found myself more jaded as a teacher than spurred on.
There were many reasons for this of course. Some of the blame ought to fall on the shoulders of the one writing this post. It would not be fair nor would it be prudent to place all the blame on my previous students and institutions. Yet, there were many experiences from the past that upon further reflection must be weighed in the balance and found wanting. For the sake of brevity, I will only mention three.
First, I found that students often lacked a body of knowledge or had an unusable body of knowledge. By this I mean they did not have enough information stored in their personal hard drive to comprehend basic thought concepts or foster dialogue. They simply were not taught the relevant facts and principles (logic, history, etc.) necessary for establishing a firm foundation for critical thinking.
Second, some institutions lacked the commitment and consistency to implement a system that called on students to think cogently. There is a chasm of difference between the accumulation of facts and the assessment of fact. Thinking cogently demands the latter, but not the former. A lab rat can accumulate facts, but it takes a human mind to see the significance of those details and make application to various situations.
Third, there has been a wholesale divorce between morality and learning within our educational institutions. By morality, I do not mean simply learning not to cheat on an exam or not disrespecting your teacher or showing kindness toward your fellow student. There are many fine institutions that are non-Christian who hold to those standards.
By morality I mean a way of living and thinking that understands that the goal of education is virtuous living. The very reason you learn logic, rhetoric, math, science, and Chemistry are so that you can think and live rightly (and not to get a good paying job).
Now, I mention all of this to set up my chief point – My idealist nature with respect to education has returned, and I have the redeeming halls of Trinitas to thank for it.
Over the past two semesters, Trinitas has bestowed on me the great honor and privilege of teaching young men and young women who are nothing short of a teacher’s dream. Their passion and excitement for learning is infectious. Far from being frustrated by the learning process, my Greek students are emboldened when faced with learning challenges. Their ability to integrate past concepts with new ones is astounding. And it is refreshing to see their insatiable thirst for truth and their insistence on accuracy of thought. But most impressive of all is the sterling quality of their character. Their level of humility and patience is convicting.
Of course, I know that the students I teach did not develop in a vacuum. The development of this standard of excellence took place in a community. And Trinitas has done yeoman’s work in creating such a high standard. The students possess an impressive body of knowledge, not just in terms of breadth, but also in depth. And when coupled with an ability to articulate and systemize this body of knowledge while incorporating unexplored concepts of thought, the results are a joy to behold.
I recently thought to myself, “Teaching doesn’t get any better than this.” And it is the truth. Teaching at Trinitas has reinvigorated my Christian educator idealist nature. It has helped me to reimagine what I once lost, an ideal teaching and class environment. Having said that, I do not wish to leave the reader with the impression that I think Trinitas is perfect. But then again, Trinitas doesn’t purport perfection. Trinitas – at least from my perspective – embraces the nature of fallen humanity with all its imperfections and then hurls it toward Christ. It understands the savage nature of the Noetic effects of the fall and does all it can to heal its savagery. And the true beauty of it all is that this healing isn’t just designed for the students. This healing also occurs for the teachers; even a once jaded Christian education idealist like me.
Pastor Dennis Louis