By Mathilda Joubert
My favourite Dr. Seuss book. Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! describes a school (Diffendoofer School) with the confidence to be different to the norm. Here are a few lines to give you a taste:
“Our school is at the corner
Of Dinkzoober and Dinkzott.
It looks like any other school,
But we suspect it’s not.
I think we’re learning lots of things
Not taught at other schools.
Our teachers are remarkable,
They make up their own rules.”
I often get asked why I work in Christian education. One reason is that I wanted to be part of a community of Christians with the confidence to be different or counter-cultural in today’s society – a bit like Diffendoofer School. Whilst Christian schools have many things in common with other schools, e.g. a desire to see children make progress in learning and an aspiration to excellence, there are also some distinctive differences.
In Christian education we recognise that “… the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom” (Job 28:28), enabling us to build our schools on Christ as foundation. This is very different to the norm. We aim to be Christ-centred in everything we do, recognising that children’s biggest need is Christ. Schools are often expected to cure the many ills of society, but the only cure for sin is salvation through Jesus. The joy of working in Christian education is that we can share the gospel message of hope and salvation through our teaching or our interaction with students and parents.This allows us to truly affect eternity by positively impacting the next generation.
Back at Diffendoofer School Dr Seuss also recognises the important role that the whole school community plays in the education of children:
“There are many people
Who make Diffendoofer run.
They are utterly amazing –
I love every single one.
Our nurse, Miss Clotte knows what to do
When we’ve got sniffles or the flu.
One day I had a splinter, so
She bandaged me from head to toe.
Mr plunger, our custodian,
Has fashioned a machine –
A super-zooper-flooper-do –
It keeps the whole school clean.”
Dr Seuss continues to talk about the cooks, librarians, the teachers, the Principal, etc. – all contributing to the children’s education. In Christian education we too celebrate the importance of community: community amongst staff and community between parents, students and staff.
As sinful human beings we will never be perfect, but another distinctive is that we also aspire to be Christ-like in the way that we teach and interact with others.
Jesus was the ultimate teacher and as a Christian educator I aspire to model my teaching on Him. Jesus taught with his head, his heart and his hands. His teaching was always grounded in the knowledge of the Scripture as he imparted knowledge to those around Him (head). Perhaps the most profound aspect of Jesus’ teaching was His love for those he taught (heart). Jesus also served those around Him as he humbly washed their feet (hands). Despite His humility (or perhaps because of it) the influence of Jesus’ teaching is beyond measure.
Yet despite all these (and many other) distinctive differences Richard Edlin (1999) reminded us that our reasons for engaging with Christian education should not be merely a reaction to moral decline in other schools or even bandwagonism, but faithful obedience to the calling of God.
That's why we do Christian education.