“You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name” (John 15:16).
The term “student” is defined as: scholar, learner; one who studies; an attentive and systematic observer (Merriam-Webster). Though I can boast of only ten years of experience on the battlefield that is called teaching, I can attest to both the accuracy and failure of this definition.
There are good days when the students are involved and invested in the lesson. Through their engagement they take the lesson and apply it to other areas of life, bringing in prior knowledge or using their imagination to apply the lesson in ways that you may never have thought of. Those are the days where the individuals that inhabit your classroom are truly students.
There are those other days, when the individuals inhabiting your classroom may be on speed dial with NASA because they operate much like a space cadet might. On those days I would be hard-pressed to consider those individuals as “students” or I as a “teacher.”
How is it that we teach a lesson? Learning objectives define the goal of the lesson and list out the demonstrable skills or knowledge the student will glean because of our instruction (Edu Tech Wiki). The clearer the objectives are, the easier it will be for the learner to perform the expected goal, be it knowledge application, behavioral change, or further studies (Writing Clear Learning Objectives).
A disciple is “a convinced adherent of a school or individual; one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another” (Merriam-Webster). If a teacher is one who instructs by example to master an objective and guides the student who is an attentive and systematic observer, then this student may, for all intents and purposes, become a disciple of the objective, if not also the teacher. The teaching process, therefore, becomes a disciple-making process.
2 Thessalonians 3:7 has Paul speaking to believers in Thessalonica, “For you know that you ought to imitate us. We were not idle when we were with you.” Paul’s learning objective was to present a testimony of the gospel of Christ through his life. And he was so firm in his devotion that he boldly declared his students should become disciples of his life, which was an imitation of Christ’s life. Paul’s words encouraged believers to go out into the world and demonstrate mastery of this objective to live as Christ to others (2 Tim. 2:2-3).
Paul’s emphasis on a student’s necessary ability to imitate the teacher and, furthermore, to become a teacher to others, stems from Jesus when He spoke to the disciples before his ascension into heaven. “Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matt. 28:18-20). In His years of ministry, Jesus was the ultimate Teacher who gave instruction by example, encouraging His disciples to do likewise for others.
This Great Commission is THE learning objective all teachers must include in their curriculum. From the way we act upfront (Titus 2:7-8), to the way we speak to students (Eph. 4:29), even to the way we approach lesson planning (2 Tim. 2:15), teachers cannot neglect the Great Commission. Neither can we forget the dual challenge/encouragements found in Ecclesiastes 9:10 or Colossians 3:17, 23-24. From these biblical principles, and many more like them, I think we can see the necessity of incorporating the gospel into our curriculum.
My challenge, and encouragement, today is to approach learning objectives from the vantage point of Jesus, his disciples, Paul, and so many others we respect and quote to one another. This will equip our students to apply the lessons to everyday life, to teach others, and equally encourage others to know and grow. Seek to make disciples of your students, disciples of Christ, and disciples of learning.