What Do You Teach?

The question draws answers ranging from second grade to high school math, from preschool to junior high (poor soul).  Teachers are quick to declare the subjects that they teach.

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But the better answer to the question will be the same for all teachers—What Do You Teach?  Answer:  Students

Perhaps better phrased as “Who Do You Teach?” but the answer is still the same—Students.

I remember walking down the hall one day as a young principal—it was the dreaded “Picture Day” at our school.  You know the scheduling havoc caused by school pictures.  Students are called by grade level to a central location to be photographed for the yearbook and picture sales.

The process had been going great in the younger grades—all third graders left the classroom together and returned together.  Smooth!  I had seen it working well for some time now, but an eerie feeling came over me in the hallway that morning.  I passed what I thought to be an empty room but as I passed I heard what I thought to be the voice of the teacher.

I stopped.  And sure enough, as I listened, I heard the voice of the teacher as he presented the next explanation of the Algebra II problem for that day.  As I stuck my head into the classroom I noted that the only person in the room besides the teacher was a disinterested student about half asleep in the back corner.

I just stopped and looked at the teacher.  Finally, he paused and our eyes met.  I broke the ice with the question—What Do You Teach?  He retorted almost robotically—Algebra II.  Silence ensued.  Then he broke the silence by stating that his students were getting pictures made.

I walked away thoroughly confused.  I had just observed as Mr. Duty-Bound stood in front of his classroom and “taught” a room full of straight-rowed, empty desks.  What was he thinking?  As I retreated to my office to assess my thoughts, I could not help but ask myself if the teacher were only doing what he always did—teach math.

Then it hit me.  Any teacher can fall into the rut of “teaching math.”  Oh, it may be third grade, junior high history, or even preschool.  Unless teachers continually re-focus on their students, well-meaning teachers will find themselves teaching “empty desks.”

As teachers, it is important to remember several principles that will keep us focused on our students and not just on our subject—

  1.  To effectively teach, we must know our students.  The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 3:7 that a man should dwell with his wife after “knowledge.”  What does that mean?  He should gain an understanding of his bride, how she thinks, what her needs are, and ways that he can better communicate with her.  Teachers must do the same with their students.
  2. To effectively teach, we must recognize that the focal point of the classroom is the teacher.  This is modeled by Jesus when teaching His disciples.  But a teacher that rightly leads a classroom will find strategies and content-delivery methods that meet the needs of every student in the class.
  3. To effectively teach, we must realize that to fail to deal with students in light of our knowledge will provoke them and lead them to discouragement.  I fear that many classrooms are filled with discouraged students listening to teachers that are so focused on their subject that they have forgotten “what they teach.”
  4. To effectively teach, we must realize that all students can and must learn.  Teachers often lose sight of students and deliver content, become assigners of work, or reduce themselves to classroom management only.  We must develop strategies to effectively reach all of our students.

 So, What Do You Teach?

Will you dare to share with us where you were the last time you realized that you were teaching a subject and not students? 

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Edward is the founder and managing editor of Focus on Christian Education. He also serves as the Executive Director of the South Carolina Association of Christian Schools.