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How Often Do You
Connect Faith
to Your Teaching?

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from a blog published by Chronicles of Hope  and the Christian Teachers’ Special Interest Group (SIG), KOTESOL or Korea TESOL. Used by permission.

The classroom should be constantly filled with opportunities to discuss the amazing simplicity and complex reality of our faith.How often do you connect faith to your teaching? Being transparent with the hope of keeping this post as a reminder, I will say: not nearly enough. Our school is a Christian university. The classroom should be constantly filled with opportunities to discuss the amazing simplicity and complex reality of our faith. Jesus deserves to be central in our curriculum and we are working on ways to help our students become critical thinkers and reflective spiritual beings.

In my prayer and devotion life, I am still growing. My goal is for a deeper understanding of pedagogy and the art of connecting with students. As the relationships develop, faith—both mine and theirs—can be more fully realized. In exchanges with the students, sometimes I ask if I can pray for them. I pray for more courage, especially for reaching out to those who come from different kinds of families. It seems there are not many who are well-versed in the faith, even if they come from Christian homes.

Is there a Christian way to teach English?

Yes, there is a Christian way to teach, and there is definitely a Christian way to teach English. Since I hold to the maxims of “Faith Alone, Grace Alone, and Word Alone” and most certainly “Christ Alone,” there are methods, approaches, and even specific lessons that can be taught that are all biblical and focused on Jesus Christ. A main example is prayer—praying for our students, their families, our coworkers and their families, the community and other relationships that are connected to our schools. I hope I am not the only one who has had to pray about a lesson plan, and I think more teachers pray about tests than the students do!

Look to the Bible for guidance and take a Matthew 18 approach.As a matter of classroom management, discipline, and working through challenging scenarios related to sin (and not just policy or handbook issues!), we can look to the Bible for guidance and take a Matthew 18 approach. We have a perfect guide and example in the teachings of the Bible and the actions of Christ. This gives us the reassurance of being a fully-equipped leader of those we are teaching. When we mess up and inadvertently make life hard for others, we have the forgiveness of Jesus and should be able to confess to those individuals, or even groups, as a testimony to our faith.

Most directly, there are many lessons to be taught from the Bible. There are phrases and idioms to be shared and learned since they give insight into so many concepts. These ideas are typically extended past learning only about the faith. There are volumes of literature and multitudes of plays, movies, and musical offerings that are rooted in the Christian worldview.

Pearls of Wisdom

In closing, I would also like to give credit to one of the most influential “pearls of wisdom” about teaching that was offered by Dr. Brad Baurain while I took a course with him at E.L.I.C. He shared about the exchange in Acts 8, between Philip and the Ethiopian. With this, there are three principles for us to take away from verses 26–40.

First, the opportunity for teaching the Gospel came from a language learning need and reading comprehension discussion. This was a cross-cultural matter. Also, we can see how it is helpful to be intentional and strategic in what we do as Christians who are often crossing into other cultures to teach the language.

Being a great teacher requires us to know our subject well, so we are constantly learning. Second, it is important to meet the student where he or she is. This could be intellectually, but also being holistic in our approach, we should want to serve students in areas of their physical, emotional, and certainly their spiritual realities. This requires careful listening. (And doing it for a deeper purpose than just formative and summative feedback!) Philip met with him. Doing this well also requires us to ‘know our stuff’. Certainly, if Philip hadn’t studied Isaiah, we probably would have never heard of this interaction, right? Teaching about the Christian faith requires us to know our faith well, along with understanding the Bible. This can be considered our theology. Being a great teacher requires us to know our subject well, so we are constantly learning.

Third, we can have the confidence that the ultimate responsibility is with the Holy Spirit. We do have explicit directions to “Go!” We know we must prepare, plan, and make every effort to be effective. However, in the end, the lessons rest with the student and certainly any faith formation is totally the work of the Holy Spirit.

James G. Rush II currently serves at Luther University in Yongin, Korea, where he has been since Fall 2016. He has taught English as a Foreign Language for more than 10 years and has been an educator for 17 years after graduating from Concordia University Wisconsin. In 2012, James earned a Master’s degree from the University of Michigan-Flint as part of a unique Global Cohort that focused on technology in education. His educational passions include service-learning and projects focused on digital citizenship, student-led initiatives, and social justice matters. He has taught at all levels and worked overseas in Taiwan, Vietnam, Japan, Macau, Shanghai, and Shenzhen in China, South Africa, and now Korea.