By Tia Lawrence
On Christian Teaching is a book that provided me with a whole new angle on practicing faith and pedagogy in the classroom. Throughout this book, David Smith argues that faith should do more than shaping the content used in our classrooms. He is keen that it must also illuminate the teaching and learning practices themselves.
Smith draws on different experiences that he has from teaching and being a parents of children in high school in the US. He looks at the way that our faith can be part of our teaching every day and the way that we work within schools.
This had me thinking about how as a Christian I should be making the classroom to meet all the children as individuals. Smith mentions,
“View students not as minds, achievers, customers, or challenges, but as images of God called to faithful living and to love of God’s neighbour”.
As someone looking at teaching children in a primary school, I loved the idea of making sure that all the children showed the same care and can know where it is safe.
The experience the author had with his son sounded a lot like me as a teenager! I didn’t like books on most subjects. But I had teachers who found ways to make studying interesting and fun. As Smith asks,
“What happens if we shift focus and ask not just what Christian ideas are to be taught, but what might be Christian about the teaching and learning practices among which we invite students to live?”
I experienced the difference this made in the teaching I was given at school.
Many may find Chapter 6, “See, Engage, Reshape” encouraging, as Smith draws the reader into thinking about focusing on the way that the students are engaged in their learning. Within the classroom, it is key that the students are engaging in their learning, though it may be different from what we are expecting or wanting them to be when interacting with the class.
Smith also talks about reshaping practice and looking at ways that we can “focus on shaping our materials, resources, and strategies”. This may be the way that the classroom we look at how to set up our classroom or what we have on the walls around the room.
The bulk of the examples, and the author’s experience led this to being a book which perhaps suits secondary teachers or teachers of just one subject. However, some people who teach in primary schools may find this a way to relate to different gaps within their classrooms and to support the children’s learning experiences.
Whatever your level of experience or teaching, it's worth a read for anyone wanting to think about how Christ changes the shape of every teaching moment, not just the teacher.
On Christian Teaching by David Smith is currently available in the UK on Amazon for £13.62.