Reflections on 45 Years of Teaching
Hard to believe, but on January 1, 2021 I will begin my 45th year of teaching. Three simple quotes have meant the world to me through these years. May I share them with you?
"Christian education is likeness education."
"Holy shoddy is still shoddy."
"Greek, Hebrew, and Latin all have their proper place. But it's not at the head of the cross where Pilate put them, but at the foot of the cross in humble service to Christ."
I first heard "Christian education is likeness education" in one of my Christian Education classes at Biola. I had just finished my B.A. in Bible and was beginning to teach Greek there while attending Talbot Seminary. Since I considered education a likely career path for me, I thought it might be a good idea to take a couple of classes in pedagogy. So that semester, while teaching 11 units of Greek, I took two undergraduate classes in education. The first was called "Tests and Measurements." Even today I find what I learned in that class helpful as I prepare quizzes and exams. The second class was "College Teaching Procedures." This is where the prof told me that "Christian education is likeness education." My mind went to the words of Jesus in Luke 6:40: "The student is not above his teacher. But when a student is fully trained, he will be just like his teacher." Since then, that has become one of my life verses as a teacher. I don't live up to it for sure. But I aspire to.
In that class we were required to read a book by the well-known American Quaker theologian Elton Trueblood. The book was called The Idea of a College.
In it the author made this profound statement: "Holy shoddy is still shoddy." Trueblood saw no reason why Christians shouldn't be as committed to excellence in their work as non-Christians are in theirs. Just because we are accepted in Christ "just as we are" is no excuse for shoddy work in the workplace. From that day on, excellence became my goal -- an unattainable one to be sure, but again, something I have aspired after.
I can't remember exactly where I first read the Scottish proverb about Greek, Hebrew, and Latin. But I do appreciate the point it's trying to make. Knowledge per se is worthless. Greek per se is abominable. It is only when we use our minds for the glory of God and in his service that acquiring knowledge and degrees makes any sense. Paul puts it this way: "We all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up."
What wonderful truths! There's no way you can Instagram them. Yet each makes me feel so fully alive. They challenge the socks off me. Through the years, I've found that they have been my life mottos in ways their original speakers couldn't have foreseen. When I struggle with direction in my life; when I feel I have lost my way; when I get confused or angry or afraid, I come to them over and over again. I have turned to these three truths for comfort.
I now have a higher view of my calling as a teacher than ever before. It feels, actually, like I'm just getting started.
December 1, 2020
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.