Transformational Education for 8-year-olds

by David Midwinter

In a recent meeting, the directors of TeachBeyond’s Educational Services were challenged to consider what TeachBeyond’s vision[1] and the theory of transformational education might look like in a class of 8-year-olds. We wanted to move from a theoretical discussion to something far more practical. You may teach younger or older children, but the general principles here may help you to consider what implications this has for your classroom.

Generally, teachers of 8-year-olds are with their class for the whole school day and therefore, relationships are extremely important. You cannot show the love of Jesus if you never have time to develop good relationships. You can spend hours on preparing the most wonderful lessons and marking books meticulously, but if you do not have time for the children this work will be in vain. An interesting exercise which illustrates this is to ask children what are the characteristics of a good teacher. You will find that among other things they like teachers who are kind, fair, have a sense of humour[2], and always have time to listen to them.

Fairness is a very interesting concept. I read this a few days ago:
PUPIL: ‘Would you punish me for something I did not do?
TEACHER: ‘Of course not.’
PUPIL: ‘Good, because I haven’t done my homework.’

This makes us laugh, but as you read this I suspect you can remember being told off for something you did not do. We remember injustice, so it is very important that we are fair and consistent in the way we treat children. Take time to think about how you respond to inappropriate behaviour. Do you always take the time to find out what has happened or do you occasionally make assumptions about the cause of a problem that arises? Are you always consistent with your expectations? This is an important way in which you can demonstrate that you care and value your pupils and see them as individuals created in the image of God.

How often do you take time to listen to the news that your students bring to school? If it is good news, why not let them tell the class? Even if it is not good news, maybe it is still appropriate to share with the class–though that will be up to you to decide. This shows you really value the students and what is important to them.  Most importantly this will show you care. If possible you could have a prayer time with your class and include some thank you prayers and prayers for others. Even if you cannot pray openly, you can show your compassion by listening and reassuring your pupils that you care.

Another important attribute to demonstrate to children is honesty. There are times when I have observed teachers fabricating reasons that are not true to explain something a pupil has asked about or pretending to know things that they clearly didn’t know. Usually children see through this falseness. Telling the truth, admitting when you don’t know, and apologising when you get things wrong are other ways that you can demonstrate that you value the children you work with.

The best teacher was Jesus and by studying His teaching ministry we see that He gave time for individuals and showed them love and compassion. If we want to be channels of His love and see transformation, then we need to demonstrate those same values. I hope that whether you are in a school where you can openly share your faith or not, there are principles here you can adapt to your situation.

David Midwinter is the UK National Director for TeachBeyond

[1] “We wholeheartedly desire to serve our Father’s world, to love Jesus Christ, and to see individuals and societies transformed by His Spirit through education”. –TeachBeyond vision prayer
“Our vision integrates faith and learning in the simple, yet profound belief that through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, lives and cultures will be transformed into Christ’s image.”—TeachBeyond distinctives

[2] A sense of humour may be a cultural thing, but I think the other attributes are universally appropriate.

Photo CreditsLearner, Barrett.Discovery via Compfight cc. Classroom, US Department of Education via Compfight cc. Girls, Barrett.Discovery via Compfight cc.