As we sat around a table during staff training, listening to a talk, three of my teachers and I heard a familiar refrain that begged to be pondered: “The glory of God must be the aim in our teaching.”
This ideal fell on hopeful hearts but confused minds. It is something we educators are reminded of often, but in this moment, on this day, we decided to peer into the mysterious glory cloud even deeper. We asked, “What does that mean?”
We began talking about the purpose and end of a lesson. Every lesson is going to go somewhere and it is going to make much of something, if there is any weight and wonder to it. To glorify God is to make much of God and to glorify anything else is to make much of that something else. When Moses asked to see God’s glory, God showed Moses Himself by walking in front of him. Thus glory and glorifying is tied to some aspect of showing off how great God is.
Now that we were somewhat armed with the rudiments of glory, we could ponder the various possibilities of glory in a lesson.
The teachers kept things simple by focusing on three possibilities for glory in a lesson: the student, the content, and God. Knowing I have the tendency to shoot way over their heads when we talk about theory, I asked our kindergarten teacher what her science theme was this month. Mrs. Grey responded, “the solar system”.
“Great,” I said, “so how might we make much of a student when studying the solar system?”
We discovered that it becomes very easy to praise a child for their ability to memorize the order and facts about planets. We give them a pat on the back and a good job. Yet at the end of the lesson, the parting memory is how well little Johnny did in memorizing or presenting about the lesson. Now little Johnny’s mind is a wonder, but it is not the telos of the lesson. The other children may walk away wanting to be like Johnny, but there is something greater to be had in the lesson.
Next we discussed how we might make much of the content of the lesson itself. In the case of the solar system, we might enamor the children with the size of the sun compared to the earth or the amazing power of the sun in view of its heat and gravity. We might show them pictures of the massive storm of Jupiter or point out the beauty of Saturn’s rings. Perhaps we show satellite photos or a video and leave them stupefied in wonder over creation. All this is well and good, for the children will beg to learn more. Yet even this wonder and thirst for learning is not the true end of the lesson.
God made all things for Himself and it is only when the Creator is connected to the created in the lesson that the lesson reaches its true end. After thinking about a lesson’s trajectory and end within the context of the student and the creation, we were all much more equipped to tackle our previously stupefying question: “How do you glorify God in a lesson?”
“The children need to see how God is reflected in the lesson,” my teachers said.
“How do we do that in the context of the solar system?” I asked.
As a team we saw that the sun’s power is reflective of God’s unlimited power. We can see His wisdom in placing the earth just so far from the sun and no farther so that it created the ideal circumstance for mankind to flourish. The beauty of Jupiter’s storm and Saturn’s rings are a reflection of His own beauty. Thus after all the pictures, video, and conversation, the children are left marveling, but their marveling is connected to the greatness of God. They were marveling at God’s creation, how much greater is God who created it all!
At the end of our training we all left satisfied in pondering a deep question together and hopeful of actually glorifying God in our lesson. In short, God is reflected in everything that He has made. He has placed His fingerprints on trees, dolphins, multiplication, and verbs. Our opportunity is to make a connection between the created and the Creator so that they fall even more in love with Jesus.
(On a side note, the training was supposed to be about wisdom and virtue. We got side tracked by a question not on the agenda and yet grew in wisdom and virtue all the same. For all you staff trainers, don’t be scared to jettison the agenda to entertain some great question or idea.)