The Integration of Faith and Learning

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lindsey-smithBy Lindsey Smith |
Student, Malone University |

John: 14:12
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in me, the works that I do he will do also; and GREATER works than these he will do, because I go to my father” (NKJV).

Last week, I thought I had the appropriate scripture selected, and I was confident of the direction my Faith Integration paper would go. I was confident I knew what scripture best applied to my accumulated experiences as a student and future teacher… but like most things in life, God intervened and showed me that he is the truest teacher of all, and he alone, knows what is best for every last person and piece of creation. Last Friday, I attended an SFO (Spiritual Formation Opportunity) and they were discussing how individuals create boxes for others and themselves. These boxes consist of labels, limitations, and things we believe about ourselves and our identities. As I was sitting there, I realized how interconnected this message was in the area of teaching and life in general.

After hearing this message, I came to the conclusion that to live out our faith in the teaching profession means to mentor and transform the lives of our students; it means to use our gifts, talents, beliefs, and abilities to fill the boxes or minds, of our students, with good things. Things our lord and savior would find pleasing and of the highest level of compassion. What I learned from the scripture is that to do “greater works” is to do the works of God or works similar to Jesus. As educators, we need to continuously put ourselves through the journey of our students. We need to be more than just sympathetic and mildly proactive in terms of the students’ struggles and needs. We need to be empathic, but to stop at empathy would fall short of what Jesus referred to as a “greater work,” because an even “greater work,” as Jesus describes in the Gospel, resembles that of compassion, which goes beyond empathy. To be the kind of teacher that resembles our greatest creator and teacher of life, we must always be reliant upon God for his guidance. God can help us to be ready for these students. Because it is not the job of the children to be ready for us, but rather our job to be ready for them. The work of being ready for our students rests entirely on our shoulders.

A student coming into the school environment may have a disability. The student may be an ELL (English Language Learner) student. The student may have home struggles, poor self-esteem, or other unnoticed struggles. As teachers, we will never be able to foresee or know all the struggles and burdens of our students, or the things that travel through their minds, but our creator does. God can open and transform any child’s mind. As teachers, he shares his work and provides us with an abundance of opportunities to transform and alter the mindset of our students. As we prepare to become teachers, we’re taught to always be prepared for someone to walk in and examine our lesson plans, instruction, and classroom culture, at any given time. Therefore, we are cautious and mindful by how others may evaluate us, but I often wonder what our evaluation look like if it came from God?

To achieve a good evaluation from God, we have to be willing to open boxes up, all the boxes, even the ones that have collected dust, the ones that are seemingly beyond reach. We must open these boxes and examine their contents. In addition, we must expertly teach in a way that reflects growth through continuous self-reflection and evaluation. It is important to remember that when Jesus looks at each individual person, he doesn’t look at one single box, nor does he even assign boxes. Jesus was the type of individual who did not believe in boxes, he believed in love, compassion, advocacy, and greater works. As future teachers, we need to share Jesus’s paradigm and incorporate love, compassion, and the desire to achieve and participate in greater works. Through our profession we can change and influence our students’ feelings, thoughts, perceptions, identities, and ultimately, affect the rest of their lives. As Henry Adams once said, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”

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