Teaching

Walking with the Teacher #3 Differentiated Instruction

Differentiated Instruction, or individualized instruction, is defined in The Act of Teaching as, “Instruction that attempts to tailor teaching and learning to a learner’s unique strengths and needs”. Another source adds, “The intent of differentiating instruction is to maximize each student’s growth and individual success by meeting each student where he or she is, and assisting in the learning process . My ongoing thesis in this series is that Jesus was the greatest teacher who ever lived and that we who desire to spend our lives educating and inspiring young people would do well to study his life and to learn by watching and then emulating Him. I am finding that an examination of what research determines to be the best practices in education somehow always results in praise to God, who of course, as the designer of our brains, knew these things all along.

I found myself in need of some individualized instruction in the hours before dawn one day last week. After a prolonged period of wrestling with the bedcovers and my own anxious thoughts, I could finally stand it no longer and got up in the dark. Painfully aware that I had not had sufficient rest to get me through all the tasks that faced me and too sleepy to start my day with the structure of my Bible study workbook, I just wrapped myself in a quilt, went out into the backyard, and watched the sunrise. Finally, I grew still. In that chilly solitude filled with bird song and the brilliant colors of the morning, it was easy to know that he was God. That I was not. And that was precisely where and when Jesus, my Teacher came and gently directed me to a passage of Scripture that would “maximize ( my) growth and individual success by meeting ( me) where I ( was ) and assist me in the learning process.”

A passage came to mind from Luke 12:22 and I turned there. I have wrestled with worry many times and so it was not an unfamiliar passage. Words like “Which of you by worrying can add one hour to his life?”, or “… you of little faith…” followed by that wonderful encouragement to “seek first the Kingdom” hit me right in the heart. Now that I was finally still and listening, what we educators might term “ engaged” , my Teacher was able to administer some more individualized instruction, pointing out to me that when I get worried I also become a wee bit argumentative, borderline bossy, and even downright grouchy. He was able to deliver this news to me in such a way that it truly became good news because it came with a clear-cut solution. Repent. Trust. Obey. There really is no other way.

Because Jesus loves me and knows me individually, he gave me a new song to sing. I suppose he must have read the research on multiple intelligences, because this was just the ticket for me. Any teacher knows that a very effective mnemonic device is to put concepts to music to help auditory learners memorize content. Jesus knew that the song would get stuck in my head and would remind me to take the thoughts that had been troubling me captive. Suffice it to say that my anxiety was quelled, my spirit soothed and my joy restored.

These “Be-still- and-know-that-He-is-God” moments are essential in the life of a busy teacher. When the traffic in our own heads becomes deafening, it drowns out our ability to hear the needs of the students God has entrusted to us. As we follow Jesus, our Master Teacher, we come to know his attention to our individual needs and it is from that position of strength that we are able provide ” instruction that attempts to tailor teaching and learning to a learner’s unique strengths and needs.” Once again, we realize the God is able to equip us fully for the work to which he has called us.

As you walk with the Teacher and sit with him in the silence, may your joy be full and your cup overflowing!

Walking with the Teacher # 2: He Starts with the Blessings

He Starts with the Blessings

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God,
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 5: 3-10

To be “Blessed”

To be blessed means more than to be happy, healthy or overflowing with material goods. It indicates a joy that goes beyond mere emotion. Max Lucado, in The Applause of Heaven, calls it “…a delicious gladness that comes from God. A holy joy. A sacred delight.” It is what we all really want at the core of our souls. Any form of earthly pleasure is only a signpost or a substitute for what God really wants to give us. To be blessed by God… it is peace, it is bliss. And it is reward.

Jesus starts out his earthly ministry as a teacher by talking to his listeners about rewards. The notes in the NIV study Bible refer to the Sermon on the Mount as “…in effect, King Jesus’ inaugural address, explaining what he expects of members of his kingdom.” But there is no fanfare, no royal proclamation, no PowerPoint presentation. He simply climbs up a hillside and begins to teach the first group of students God has given him, those who would one day share these lessons and turn the world upside down. He does not start out with a list of regulations and the penalties that will result if they are breached. He does not promise entertainment or fun times ahead for those who follow him. But he does unmistakably appeal to his listeners’ desire and need to be rewarded for right action.

Jesus is the best teacher who ever lived. When we answer God’s call on our lives to be teachers, we are signing up to walk with the Teacher, to sit at his feet and take lessons from him about all aspects of this demanding and rewarding career and ministry. He will show us how to communicate truth in a way that touches the hearts as well as the heads of our pupils. Demonstrating the perfect balance of correction and encouragement,he can inspire us to inspire others. He will teach us how to teach.

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Walking with the Teacher

Perhaps the most joyous words Mary Magadalene ever spoke were those recorded in John 20:16: “Teacher”! Loving Jesus as she did, she had suffered much as she kept watch at the foot of the cross . She was among the final few who remained with him until he gave up his spirit. She witnessed his agonizing death pangs. She heard him cry out: “It is finished.” She watched as they laid him in his grave and sealed the tomb.

In the early morning darkness of the first day of the week, Mary returned to the grave of her beloved friend, mentor, and healer only to find it empty. In her distress, she assumed someone had stolen the body, and she ran to Simon Peter and John, his closest male friends, for help. John, who is telling us this story, reports that he went into the tomb , where “he saw and believed” that Jesus had risen from the dead. Jesus had been watching at a distance as Peter and John made their astonishing discovery, probably grinning to himself as he watched his friends notice the neatly folded head cloth, and exulting at their discovery of the fact that he had really done what he’d said he would: he’d risen from the dead. John saw the evidence and believed- just like that. Having seen what he needed to see, he tells us he went home. Pragmatic. Some of the sisters among us might think, ” Now isn’t that just like a man?!”

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