During one of my terms as a Board Member/Trustee at a Christian school where I live, I presented a devotional that took nearly a year’s worth of board meetings to cover. That devotional was called “How to Teach a Child to Have a Moral Compass.” I may turn that into a book some day because what I learned as a father, and as a school board member was extremely valuable, and on the other hand, severely lacking in our society, including Christian parenting, and Christian schooling. I first presented that children are not born with a moral compass; it has to be taught to them. Then I developed three key points which are teaching children WHY something is taught to them, WHAT the consequences are, and HOW to think through and make the decision. A sound Christian school uses these three points, and does so on two fronts: disciplining students, and “pre-emptive” teaching of students. Sort of a “before” and “after” approach.
Why Something is Taught.
We all know that the best teachers not only teach a topic or subject, but they explain why.
Why a math formula or equation is needed, why in English class a sentence is constructed that way, why in chemistry class you do not mix “those two chemicals together”, why in real life, do they need to know this or that. I did horrible in calculus class because I had no idea why in life I needed to know how to find the area under a curve…
Teaching a topic or subject takes effort and planning, but it takes extra effort and hard work to explain why the student needs to learn that topic or subject. Do the extra effort. Additionally, for the school Administration, all rules need to have a “why” along with them. That is a blanket statement, I know, but I have heard some Christian schools being labeled as “legalistic” (in a negative connotation), and when I asked or looked into the reason, I found that the rules were not overwhelming or excessive, at least to the level I was assuming, but they were simply not explained. At risk of oversimplification, saying “don’t touch that” to a child is OK when they are very little, but at some point, they will want to know why, or will find out on their own. You will then need to say “don’t touch that, because it is hot and will burn you”. (And my I add that I have found that putting the rules – and reasons – in the student’s handbook may not be good enough, you may have to have your homeroom teacher go over the rules and why they are in place verbally. (Just a thought)
In life’s decisions the student makes, we must explain why this choice should be made, why the child should not do this or that, why a behavior is inappropriate, etc. Daily life is filled with daily decisions, some trivial, some very important. Teaching a child to understand the reasons, and the consequences of those decisions is paramount to a moral compass. Since Jesus is the author of morality, (there is a statement that I encourage you to evaluate and comprehend) a sound Christian school will tie each “reason” and “consequence” to Him and His purpose. Biblical reasons should be part of each “why”.
Teachers should teach application, not just implication. Teaching about a topic is one thing, implying a result or consequence is the next thing, but many teachers end the topic there. Teaching how to apply that topic or issue is quite another. I know this does not pertain to every subject or topic, but to those that it does, it takes a little more effort, creativity, and possibly student involvement to teach application of the topic. For example, teaching that a thermal unit is a measure of heat derived from an energy source is one thing, teaching how to arrive at the thermal units it takes to heat the classroom is the next thing, but helping the students arrive with how many thermal units it takes to heat the classroom using electricity, natural gas, or firewood, may result in a cost savings discovery that could help the school, or the student’s home. Likewise, teaching the application of biblical passages in real life issues is just as important, and the responsibility of any teacher in a Christian school. That in itself, sets apart the great teacher from the average.
My next post will be on WHAT the consequences are.