Tuesday, September 15, 2015

teaching prep

I first worked on this post several weeks ago. I'm only getting back to it now. 

Last week as I dug deep into book schedules and chapter counts for both my Year 7 student and my Year 1 student, I had a passing memory of myself at that this same time of year, in almost another lifetime now, frantically cutting out laminated bulletin board pieces and other classroom decor. I grimaced at this memory and felt regret that I spent so much time on the window dressing and very little on thinking about the ideas I was to teach. Now this morning, I take time to read a recent Circe article by David Kern comparing teaching to preparing a meal.

 "There's no substitute for a teacher's quality preparation. Without preparation a teacher can't teach with purpose. This obviously refers to photocopies and supplies and crafting lesson plans, all of which are important. But it also refers to the kind of preparation that involves contemplation. A good teacher reflects on both the subject he is teaching and his role as a cultivator of wisdom and virtue; he doesn't lose sight of (or ignore) the purpose of his calling. That is, he doesn't allow contemplation of the lesson plans to keep him from preparing his own mind and soul for the act of seed-planting." ~David Kern

 In all my classroom preparation, I delegated hardly any time to contemplating the ideas and the virtues that I wanted to instill in my students. Yes, I knew what subjects I was supposed to be teaching and what books we were to be using, but I was woefully ignorant of how to lead and develop life-giving ideas from the materials that I was given to use. I simply over-relied on the workbooks and worksheets to convey any skills or meaning to my students. How deadening this all sounds. To me and to them.

"The child must learn, in the second place, in order that ideas be freely sown in the fruitful soil of his mind. 'Idea, the image or picture formed by the mind of anything external, whether sensible or spiritual,' --so, the dictionary; therefore, if the business of teaching be to furnish the child with ideas, any teaching which does not leave him possessed of a new mental image has, by so far, missed its mark. Now, just think of the listless way in which the children too often drag through reading and tables, geography and sums, and you will see that it is a rare thing for a ny part of any lesson to flash upon them with the vividness which leaves a mental picture behind. It is not too much to say that a morning in which a child receives no new idea is a morning wasted, however closely the little student has been kept at his books." ~ Charlotte Mason, Home Education, p.173

The amount of seed planting that needs to be done in both the minds of the teacher/parent and the student/child requires time set aside for content and contemplation. Both require that you build up an inventory of stuff to think about, which requires that you must stock the shelves of your mind with this said inventory. And stocking the shelves of your mind means cultivating a taste for reading, listening and doing that which is filled with goodness, truth and beauty. And because we live in a world created by a great and glorious God who is all of those things, we have inexhaustible storehouses of books, poetry, fellowship, stories, music, art, gatherings, nature, architecture, relationships, history, etc to dig into. So much to enjoy and think about, it makes all my classroom decor seem so tacky and pointless now. Who cares about the room, when it's the mind that needs furnishing.


  1. Oh, wow. I was JUST reading about this whole idea of the teacher being prepared with objectives for a lesson last night in a book.... it was sort of a lightbulb moment for me, honestly. I'm going to try to muddle this through on my blog soon. Still processing and thinking it through.

    1. Stacy, I am so behind on my blogging, so forgive my late reply. I'm so glad your thoughts coincided with mine, it helps to know that others are thinking about this as well.

  2. thank you for sharing this .. also appreciated the David Kern quote .. a good gentle reminder today


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