Heads of school prudently ask me, “What will my teachers take from your conference on nature? Will there be anything practical?”
To that I joyfully respond, “I think so.”
But I’m being mischievous. I’m happy to say that the conference will be full of practical workshops. For example, my wife, Karen, will be presenting a talk on the development of the moral imagination in young children. She gave this talk the other day at Covenant Classical School where she teachers and already a number of parents have told her that they have changed the way they read to their children – and that, following the change, their children have begun to like reading! In this talk, she describes what to read to young children and how to read to them.
In addition, Debbie Harris will be coming back to talk about developing a classroom culture. I think it was two years ago, Debbie described how to cultivate a sense of beauty in the child’s soul by the way you teach and arrange the classroom. It was one of the best workshops I’ve ever heard. I was driving along Independence Blvd. while I listened and I kept shouting: “Yes!” and punching my steering wheel. Debbie has a perception into the child’s soul that is clearly a gift from God.
I’ll describe more speakers and topics as time passes, but there’s something else I want to add. There is nothing more practical for a teacher than sound ideas. Let me repeat that.
There is nothing more practical for a teacher than sound ideas.
To refine that thought a little bit, the good teacher is the one who understands reality as it relates to her responsibilities. For that, she needs words and concepts that clarify instead of confusing. She needs to understand things according to their nature. Oh, there’s that word again!
That’s why we are dedicating the entire 2009 conference to “A Contemplation of Nature.” What is this neglected, misapplied, and even forgotten idea? Why does it matter so much? How can having this idea clarified in our minds serve to clarify every other idea? How can clarifying our ideas help us teach better?
The teacher who understands the Christian classical conception of the idea of nature has a tool that will help her do everything she does more effectively, especially teach.