In adult programs, some students come late, leave early, ignore assignments, or just don’t show up (for example). It is complicated as to why this happens and what to do about it. One thing we can do as classroom leaders is create a great class learning atmosphere. Let’s talk about what that means and how to do it.
You know your course content. You have an idea about Belhaven’s Mission to prepare “… students academically and spiritually to serve Christ Jesus in their careers, in human relationships, and in the world of ideas.” But what about the classroom “organizational culture”? How do you create an atmosphere that supports learning and creates an excitement that makes students want to come and learn!
Jay Adams in his book on Christian Education (“Back to the Blackboard”) reminds us that ALL that we do in the classroom needs to glorify God (see 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory.”) which means making God and His principles “weighty” as we address the particulars of our course material. He then suggests two main Biblical principles to guide our efforts and thus provide motivation to learn (an important part of culture!).
The first principle is found in Genesis 1:28:’
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (ESV)
This verse reminds us that our purpose as human beings created by God is to take good care of the world He created. This command is not directly related to education but does give us a perspective to work from; that blessing comes with responsibility. “So, to summarize, we may say that one major purpose of the education of a human being must be to teach him how to rule over the creation in ways that honor and please God.” (Adams, 1998) So all instruction (Adams, 1998) must point students to how to properly manage relationships (people) and the animals and resources of the earth (things/physical universe).
How does this work in the classroom?
– give students a “pathway for success” by giving clear instructions about assignments and answering questions that students have about assignments
– always make sure that students understand the “big picture” in the class you are teaching. For example, students need to read and write well because it will benefit them professionally, it helps them understand God’s Word and it helps them have an impact in their organizations. Words are the means God uses to communicate with us (see John 1) so language and the use of language is of the utmost importance for God’s people. The point is, figure out the purpose in the class you are teaching and motivate students by helping them see the point!
– make sure you understand the point of what you are saying!
– focus on learning objectives from module vs. “slides” taken from text book materials
The second principle is found in Matthew 11:28-30:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (ESV)
These verses remind us that we need to inject refreshment and enthusiasm into our classroom leadership. Because of the Fall, the world is not the way it should be so sin has impacted people and institutions, even creation itself.
So, how does this work in the classroom?
– do NOT “add to the law” … in other works, make sure you are focusing on requirements of module vs. additional items or scope change based on person preference
– reinforce learning
– see quizzes/tests as developmental vs. for punishment
– show concern for the student as a person AND expect them to perform in the class (part of student fulfilling purpose for class)
– work with students based on their strengths
– vary instructional approach (i.e. include visuals, team activity, role play … et al.) to generate interest/excitement … while still meeting learning objectives
Maybe you are seeing the truth of the above points and have been applying or maybe for the first get started with implementation. So what if this doesn’t “work.” Well don’t worry, students are also accountable. As 1 Corinthians 15:58 reminds us, our work done for the Lord is “not in vain.” As you bring great instruction and create a positive, learning atmosphere in the classroom, it puts pressure on the student to either do better … or they may reject it an get worse academically … either way, they are accountable. It is just like the Gospel message which cuts both ways.
I hope this perspective will help you create a classroom atmosphere that will bless students in your classes and even for eternity!
Adams, Jay. (1998). Back to the blackboard. Woodruff, SC: Timeless Texts.