First keep the peace within yourself, then you can also bring peace to others. – Thomas A Kempis, The Imitation of Christ
This is the last post in a series about Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie. This is an excellent book written for homeschoolers but has much to offer in terms of Christian teaching. If this is your first time to this blog I recommend reading Teaching From Rest (Part 1) and Teaching from Rest (Part 2) to lay some foundations for this post.
I would like to focus on the last section where she draws out many truths about teaching and learning and staying motivated in the process. Just as a peaceful and happy mother is the key to a happy home, a peaceful and happy professor/teacher is the key to a happy and effective classroom. The obvious question is what creates an environment where you can thrive? To answer this question you need to ask yourself one basic question. Are you honest about how you work?
Here are a few questions to consider as you reflect on this.
When do you have the most energy? For me, it’s the morning, and very little by the mid-afternoon.
Do you plan everything at the beginning of the semester? Or do you figure it out along the way? I used to plan everything out, but lately I am being more flexible with lesson planning.
What other areas are you interested in incorporating in your classroom? I enjoy teaching life skills along with English. One of the highlights in the past few years is having the students make recipe videos from process paragraphs on a healthy recipe of their choice.
What are you inspired by? I’m inspired by clean spaces, flowers, smiling children and students, and a good cup of tea. (Yes, this Canadian girl is a tea drinker!)
This many seem like an obvious point in the expanding field of applied linguistics and TESOL, but it’s most effective to be yourself. Expectations, degrees, evaluations, and the like have stressed teachers/professors out over the years, but it’s always good to come back to this basic truth. Embrace who you are because you are made in the image and likeness of God, you have exactly what you need to be the teacher/professor God wants you to be.
The second part of this is to understand how to recharge and energize yourself. If you think back to the people in your education who have impacted you the most, I bet you remember people who weren’t burnout, distracted, or just going through a lesson plan to get through it. How do you recharge and energize your mind and body?
In “Learning and Leisure: Developing a School of Schole“, Dr. Christopher Perrin tells us that when God rested after six days of creation, he was not tired. “He celebrated and blessed his creation (Gen 2:3). The Sabbath rest and the regular feasts were not given so that God’s people would do nothing, though it did mean ceasing from typical daily labor. Rather it was meant as a time for particular kind of robust activity – feasting, celebration, and blessing. The Sabbath rest is not the mere cessation of labor, but the orientation of the human to his highest end – the ‘work’ of leisure, the ‘work’ of praising, serving, feasting, and blessing.”
Do you have this kind of Sabbath in your own life? Making time for delight is not about adding to the to-do list, but rather about kindling the flame and igniting enthusiasm. It is good to remember that Sabbath rest is not the opposite of work, but work of a different order. It is the absence of anxiety or frenzy.
Of course, this doesn’t work the same way for all of us. The one common thread is that to imitate delight in our lives is to mindfully engage in truth, beauty, and goodness as a regular part of life. If we long to cultivate schole in classrooms, it makes sense to cultivate it in ourselves.
Here are a few suggestions on what we can do to cultivate schole. First, choose a mentor. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a teaching mentor. It could be a literary mentor or some other aspect of your life that puts energy into your teaching. Second, take a class. The beauty of technology is the vast number of online courses available to you. Professional development can be a beautiful thing. Third, keep a common place book. Write down or print out beautiful passages that inspire creativity and learning in you. Fourth, copy out scripture by hand. This is slow contemplation. It’s soul soaking. It’s filling your pitcher to overflowing. Here’s one last thought. Start a schole group. Like minded people do inspire each other and you can easily take advantage of that by finding 2 or 3 people who are interested in this topic.
It is important to reflect on our students for a moment. They are not projects. They are not just papers or exams that need to be graded. They are made in the image of God and need to be treated as such. We need to be aware of the potential for imitation that resides in the teacher-student relationship. If we are excited about cultivating intellectual growth, creativity, learning new skills, they are more likely to pay attention to us when we are teaching in class. A motivated, creative, refreshed teacher is a model to follow. When we have a real grip on this important truth we really will be able to teach from rest.
Virginia Hanslien (BA Development studies, MA Intercultural Studies) teaches at the Sejong Institute of Foreign Languages at Korea University’s Sejong Campus. She is the editor for this blog and for the newsletter Chronicles of Hope: Christian English Language Educators in Korea and Abroad. She attempts to teach and live from rest near Sejong City.