Sunday, July 18, 2010

How My Christian Worldview Impacts My Teaching

A worldview is a system of beliefs and assumptions one makes, either consciously or unconsciously, which shapes how they act. It has been described as a set of glasses or filters through which you look at the world around you. There are as many worldviews as there are people, though many common themes exist. As a teacher seeking to interact with many people and try to teach them, it is of utmost importance to be aware of your own worldview, but also those of your students, colleagues, and coworkers. What follows is my description of the beliefs and assumptions I live by, and how I believe they impact my role as a teacher. My belief in and relationship with God is the primary lens my worldview is built around.

What is My Worldview?

What is god?
A more appropriate question is “Who is God?” I believe in the God described in the Bible, who goes by many names. The Bible calls him Elohim, Alpha and Omega, El Shaddai and Jehovah Jireh, Yeshua, Adonai, and many others. Each of names describes an attribute of God that reveals a little of his character.

Elohim is Hebrew for creator. I believe that God created the heavens and the earth. I do not know how he did it, but I do believe he did. Whether literally in six days by speaking it into existence as described in Genesis 1, or some other way, is interesting to debate – but God created it nonetheless. As a scientist, I am aware that the earth is held together by many different forces and laws, which I believe God, set in place in the beginning. Elohim does have the power to supernaturally override these laws at times, stepping in and performing miracles.

Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, the beginning and the end. This name implies that God is eternal. God has always existed, and always will. This name reminds me of other attributes of God’s too. It reminds me that he is immutable, unchanging, and everlasting. It reminds me that he is immortal. It also reminds me that like him, I too will one day live forever.

El Shaddai is a Hebrew name meaning Lord Almighty. It reminds that he is all-powerful. Jehovah Jireh is another name meaning “The Lord will provide.” These two names combine to assure me that God will take care of me. There is nothing God cannot do, and he has my interests in mind. Jehovah Jireh is the name Abraham used when his faith was tested. He trusted that God would provide a lamb as a substitute for sacrificing his son Isaac. God did provide a lamb, and he has provided for me during numerous trials as well.

God provided most powerfully for me when he gave his only son Jesus to die on the cross for me. The name Yeshua is a name which means “He will save” from which we get the name Joshua, as well as Jesus. I believe Jesus is fully God, and yet fully man. I believe he lived on the earth around 2,000 years ago. I believe he was the only perfect example of an abundant life without sin.

What is man’s purpose?
Since man, like everything else, was created, the most important question to ask is why? I believe the name Adonai provides the answer. Adonai is translated “Lord” in the Bible. A lord deserves honor. A lord deserves obedience. A lord owns the land, and the people who work on it. Likewise, our heavenly Father deserves all the honor, glory, praise, and obedience that we his people can give.

Humans, like all creation, were created to worship God. We all do that simply by existing. I believe we are created in the image of God, which means, among other things, that we all reflect his attributes and character. I believe man stands unique from the rest of creation, because God has given us a choice. Some choose to obey God, and strive to live more like his son Jesus, and worship him joyfully. Others choose to disobey, and worship him reluctantly. Man’s primary purpose is to choose to worship God freely.

What is evil?
I believe there was an initial pair of humans, Adam and Eve, into whom God breathed life. This pair worshiped God freely until one day when they chose to disobey him, eating fruit from a forbidden tree. This first act of disobedience, also called sin, ushered in a curse. The perfect life they had enjoyed was now riddled with pain, suffering, and finally would result in their death. This is evil: the natural consequence of disobeying God, of which the ultimate penalty is death.

This curse of evil tainted all areas of creation – but namely man. Every child born now was born guilty of sin, subject to it, and preferring disobedience. In fact, though our physical bodies are alive, spiritually we are born dead. Without Yeshua’s saving grace – we are without hope, and have no place with God.

What happens after death?
Fortunately, there is life after death, both spiritually and physically. God’s son Jesus lived a perfectly obedient, sinless life. So complete was his obedience, and his love for mankind, that his unwarranted death on a cross paid the penalty that we each deserved. This act restores spiritual life in us. This act reconciles us with our holy creator, removing the guilt of our sin. No longer are we dead to sin, but we can once again choose freely to obey God, and do the works he has called us to do. This is the abundant life that Jesus came to give to us all.

Finally, I believe that three days after Jesus died, he came back to life. His physical body was restored and many witnessed it here on earth. This supernatural act began the reverse of the curse of evil. It provides a promise that we who believe in Jesus’ death for our sins can trust: that we too will experience life after death. Though our physical bodies will still die, we will be born again. We will live with God, in his presence, forever.

What Effect Does My Worldview have on my teaching?
Inherent in my world views are several philosophies which shape my teaching, including elements of objectivism and perennialism. My worldview also influences my teaching methods to include elements of behaviorism. Finally, my worldview sets my goal in teaching: preparing students to know and serve God better.

I believe there is objective truth in the universe, which we can learn and study. Specifically, I believe God reveals that truth to us in two ways. First, he reveals truth in the observations we can make in nature. I believe that by studying things in nature—and this includes much more than just birds and trees and such—we can learn about our creator. Studying the stars and planets helps reveal God’s power, order, and beauty. Studying a fractal gives a glimpse of God’s infiniteness. Studying an ecosystem can reveal how well things can work together and inspire us to live in harmony with each other, as God desires.

Second, God reveals truth to us through His word, written down in the Bible. I believe the Bible contains both literal and figurative language. This language recounts what happened in the past, describes how to live in the present, and gives glimpses of what is to come in the future. A large part of education is teaching students how to read, write, and interpret writings, so they can use scripture correctly.

As a math and science teacher, I tend to teach more on nature and how one can see God there. But much of the logic and reasoning I teach my students can also be used to interpret scripture. I also find elements of perennialism in my lesson planning. That is, I believe some truths are more important than others. While certain facts like the distance to the moon are interesting, I would rather my students know what the moon reveals about its creator. I would rather they awe at its beauty, trust that God’s faithfulness is even more reliable than the moons cycle, and be inspired to reflect God’s glory whenever they recall that the moon only gets its light from the sun.

I also find elements of behaviorism showing up in my teaching. I believe that every action has a consequence, starting with the original sin and subsequent curse. Unfortunately, the curse is so rampant, that often the consequences of actions are not obvious. In fact, sometimes the consequences even seem backward. Sometimes evil men prosper and good men suffer. I believe ultimately justice will prevail because Jesus rose from the dead after dying wrongly for our sins. I believe part of teaching morals to children involves making them aware that their choices are meaningful, and do have consequences. Part of that training certainly involves arbitrary rewards and punishments at times. Part of that training also involves inconsistencies in doling out consequences. That is often followed with a discussion about how sometimes life is not fair. Ultimately, students must learn to choose the right, even when the earthy consequences are hidden or unpleasant, because justice will prevail.

Overall, my goal in teaching is to prepare students to know and serve God better. Instructionally, I try to show them who God is by showing them what he has done in creation, and teaching them deeper reasoning and observational skills. My colleagues teach other skills, like communicating and interpreting literature. Together, we teach our students to learn all they can about who God is, who they are, and how they are to live. Informally, I show them through my example how to live morally and how to seek, know and please God. I pray to God that he will open their eyes to see their creator, and strive to view their world as I do.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


The topic of our first real discussion in my "Issues in Education" class was what role behaviourism should have in education. Behavioursim is the psychological approach of controlling behavior through the use of conditioning, or using reinforcemnt -- or as I define it: "drool-training." The classic example described is Pavlov's dog experiment. By ringing a bell when presenting food to his dogs, the dogs learned to associate the ringing of a bell with food, and would drool when the bell rings -- even if no food was around. This sort of behavior-training is the heart of behaviorism.

The articles we read - one pro-behaviorism by none other than B.F. Skinner himself - and another emphasizing the role of human choice, seemed to demonize behaviorists as manipulative, controlling tyrants. The beginning of the discussion seemed to center on this, and lean against the use of any sort of reinforcement training - i.e. the use of punishments, rewards, etc.

I felt alone in believing that behavioristic methods had some merit. I argued that behaviorism is quite natural -- we use it to train our cats and dogs -- even our young children. Some argued that students should be make their own choices, free from any external rewards or punishments.

The thing is, no choices are free from rewards or punishments -- ultimately, every choice we make has a consequence. I think the role of behaviorism in school is for students who haven't yet learned the consequences of their actions. So, for very young students, behaviorism in the form of gold stars and otherwise is certainly appropriate. Once students have learned that there are other rewards to doing right and consequences for doing bad, then behaviorism techniques should wane. It probably would not be appropriate in say a senior level class. For freshman -- possibly? Some freshman are already good at choosing wisely. Others are further behind.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Confessions of a Moviegoer

While attending my first class at Cornerstone today, we were doing a get-to-know you activity where we had to list one thing that "we never told our parents we did". I did very few secret things, and so thought it was a stupid question -- but only one thing came to mind.

Sometime early in high school -- maybe even middle school, I went to see an R-rated movie with my older cousin and some of his friends. I was not old enough. I can't remember what the movie was, or even how I managed to get in, being significantly younger than 17, but I did. I didn't want to go to see this movie -- but did and was told not to tell my parents. I never did.

The only thing I remember about the movie is that there was a sex scene. Thankfully, I don't remember the details -- but it did have a lasting effect on me. Throughout my high school and college years, I struggled with my thought life and my view of women. Was this directly a result of my cousin making me go to this movie -- of course not. But it was one of several initial encounters I had that lead me down a battle I wish I hadn't had to fight.

Needless to say, nowadays I take a strong stance on watching movies. My wife and I don't watch anything without "previewing" it first -- by reviews, or by looking at websites like Plugged In Movie Review to learn what's in it. I believe strongly that what you input into your system controls what comes out, and movies is one big influence on me, and many others. Carrie and I have found other things to do many times when a movie night was suggested for a movie we either hadn't previewed, or knew contained questionable material. Have I missed out on some good movies because of it? Possibly -- but I'm ok with that.

So next time you suggest a movie to me and I have something else to do -- don't be offended.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Its Been Three Days

Microsoft Outlook is telling me it's been three days since I last wrote in my blog, so I am writing again. I haven't been living as intentionally as I've wanted, so I am trying something new.

There are certain things I want to do consistently -- so I've used Microsoft Outlook to help hold me a little more accountable. For instance -- I want to "do devotions" everyday. So I set that as a task that recurs every day -- and so every morning when I turn on the computer it tells me that I need to do that.

Well, writing in the blog is something I want to do more consistently too, so I have it set to remind me every three days to write something. If I write before that -- great! If I write after that, no big deal, but it will continue to show up on my to do list until it gets done. Then it will move to three days later.

Other things on the list -- clean Ninja litter box every other day. (Not sure why I'm still doing this -- thought it was a temporary thing while Carrie was pregnant cause "pregnant women can't touch cat poop!") Doing dishes every other day. Take trash out, every thursday.

Not exactly sure how I feel about having devotions relegated to a task on my to do list - but I'd rather it be something I feel like I need to do just to get it done then not do them at all, which is what I had been doing. I suppose that's a philosohpical discussion to include in my next post, three days from now.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Thoughts While Husking Corn

My mind and spirit are so under attack lately that I didn't even feel like I could husk corn correctly yesterday.

I was sitting around on the 4th while everyone was out on the boats and my wife and baby were napping. I was sick of playing chess against the computer and wanted to do something. I thought I should turn some music on -- because that always brightens my spirits, and then thought -- hey! there's corn here that I could help clean! That would be great -- listen to some music and clean the corn!

But as soon as I got my radio on and bags ready for the corn clippings and pulled my first leaf off, I felt it.

My step-mom yelled in super-fast dutch "No! No! No! something something something..."

Then my sister translated "No! No! No! What are you doing! We were going to grill them in the husks! Now we can't do that! You idiot!"

Remember -- they were in the boat, so they didn't actually say that -- these are the voices I hear in my head.

Anyway -- I decided that these voices probably weren't true -- but still struggled with cleaning for a few minutes -- wondering if I would "get caught" cleaning any minute now. Then I would be in big trouble.

Then later -- as I was getting about 60% done, I started hearing from the dinner table "There's all these hairs on my corn." "Yeah, I hate those stupid hairs." "Who forgot to remove these hairs!"


Why can I not even do one act of service now without getting attacked with voices of doubt. I choose songs for a service and instantly hear people complaining. I step up to the plate and hear "another pop fly coming -- better get my glove ready to go on defense." I set up a VBS skit stage and hear the kids "That's not a boat!" or "There's somebody under that table!" I assign homework and I hear the kids saying "It's too hard" or "I already learned this" or "It took me two hours!" or I hear parents say "How come your class is the only class that..."


On another note -- Pastor Ron talked about complainers and "nitpickers" who just sit on the sidelines in a church. I have the perfect job for them -- husking corn. You have to be such a hairpicker to get all those little pieces of silk -- it would be so easy for some people.
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