By Brett King, Former RMCA Headmaster
It was not unusual, but it was disheartening. A small article tucked in the inner pages of the newspaper reported an arrest. An intoxicated woman who “maxed-out” the portable breath tester was taken into custody after breaking into the home of her boyfriend. Not only was she uncooperative with police, she had also previously lost her license for habitual drunk driving. What made this report particularly upsetting to me was the fact that she was a Denver school teacher.
Teaching is not a morally neutral action. Teachers’ character and intellectual view of the world do influence their teaching, and therefore what and how students learn. For example, Bob Pool, in an article for the Los Angeles Times asked, “Is my kid in math class? Or meth class?” Apparently, teachers at Lone Hill Middle School, in an attempt to integrate math concepts into their anti-drug campaign, assigned students a project in which they calculated the cost of buying drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Students had to figure out how much it would cost them to support their own drug habit. While this was most likely a naïve attempt to get kids engaged in a lesson, the example reflects the distorted thinking and teaching that often surrounds character development and the important role of teachers in that process.
Living the values they teach is a teacher’s most potent strategy to influence the development of Christ-like character in our kids. Consider this passage from Luke 6:39-40: “He also told them this parable: ‘Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.’” I have always been humbled and challenged by this passage. After all, I want my own children, when they are fully trained, to be like the Great Teacher, Jesus. It seems, therefore, that it would be beneficial to entrust my children to teachers who pursue the same goal in their own lives. This connection is one of the key reasons why a godly character is the foremost qualification for teaching at RMCA. Modeling is the most powerful teaching tool, and it is only one aspect of RMCA’s strategy of forging character in our students.
Kids need to both see and hear biblical principles. Direct instruction surrounding the character of God and the precepts of scripture is a natural outgrowth of our teachers’ walk with the Lord, and an integral piece of the planned curriculum. From memorizing Bible verses to applying a biblical worldview to interpreting historical events, students are naturally taught the “meaning of the stipulations, decrees, and laws of the Lord…” (Deut. 6:20) One parent expressed surprise at the request of a history teacher that students bring their Bibles to history class. This is a common and even expected practice at RMCA. Teachers seek to develop in students the connection between the benefits of morality as defined in scripture and the consequences of immorality so often revealed in history. Simply put, we teach students that ideas and behaviors have consequences.
Our teachers aren’t perfect. But their own commitment to Christ-likeness has an immediate and a cumulative impact on their students’ character development. As you assess your schooling options for next school year, please consider the moral influence of the teachers to whom you are entrusting your most precious commodity.
p.s. One of the most clarifying, challenging, and freeing books I have read on the topic of spiritual and moral formation is Dallas Willard’s recent work, Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ. It’s meaty, but I highly recommend it!