Tedd Tripp shares how the classroom can be a theological, sociological and redemptive learning place.
“Daddy, you and mummy are always telling me I’m supposed to love my brothers, but I just can’t. They are so mean to me.”
“You’re right, honey,” Tedd Tripp responded kindly to his teary-eyed daughter, who was then only nine. “God calls you to selflessly love your brothers and it’s absolutely out of character for a human being. And that shows our need for God’s grace.”
This incident in Tripp’s life was for him a wonderful snapshot of what it means to allow the grace of the gospel not just to save young people but empower them to live out God’s standards—a key thrust of his message, The Classroom: Theological, Sociological, Redemptive Learning Place at the Teachers’ Christian Fellowship prayer meeting on June 26.
“The wonderful thing about dealing with heart issues with kids is that I can stand in solidarity with them,” elaborated Tripp, President of the Board of Directors of Immanuel Christian School in Hazleton, Pennsylvania in the United States which he founded in 1979. “I understand how hard it is to love someone who is unwanted. I understand the temptation to gloat about my life. I know what it’s like to desire what someone else has,” he said
TCF Chairperson, Lucy Toh, who is currently a participant in the Leaders in Education Programme at the National Institute of Education concurred, “We must never give the impression that we are more righteous than [the children] while we are correcting and guiding them.”
Tripp begun his reinterpretation of what a classroom is by drawing from a passage in the Bible—Romans 1:21-25, putting forward the basic premise that people, are by nature, worshippers.
To Tripp, this passion for worship is evident in how most of the world is immersed in soccer fever as the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2010 plays out in South Africa. “We love to see athletes perform feats most ordinary mortals can’t. It is uniquely human. There are no diving competitions for penguins,” he shared with humor and candor as laughter rippled through the audience.
Understanding that children, too, are worshippers, provides the framework for viewing the classroom as a theological learning environment where in the absence of knowing the glory and goodness of God, what Tripp terms “idols of the heart,” take over. His examples of these included power and control, pride and performance, pleasure and sexuality, possessiveness and the need for the approval of people.
The morning’s gathering, where 50-over Christian educators and parents made time to pray for the children, parents, colleagues and educational institutions in their midst was, in itself, an embodiment of how the centrality of God can be lived out. Toh explained, “God chooses to work through the prayers of His people. If we really care about the members of our school communities, we will pray for them.”
Ng Yeow Ling, principal of Northview Primary School and Chairperson of eduNet, a support organization for teachers which participated in the prayer meeting, shared Toh’s sentiments, “By committing our work for the semester ahead to God in prayer, we dedicate what we are called to do in the classroom to Him who is able to strengthen us for all good works.”
Within a sociological learning place, a Christian educator’s work extends beyond altering negative behavior to helping children understand their motivations in their interactions with each other.
“We have to train ourselves to look at the conflicts that come up between children not as dreaded, unnecessary problems but as opportunities to get children to think about themselves and others,” said Tripp, who also authored the popular book, Shepherding A Child’s Heart, put forth. To further clarify, he compared the difference between changing how a child acts and changing the reasons behind his or her actions to the difference between chopping off the heads of weeds versus pulling them out at the roots.
Referring to James 4:1-10, he demonstrated how fights and quarrels are oftentimes rooted in an idol of the heart. Recounting another funny anecdote, he shared, “We had a little girl in our school, and she was a five-year-old ‘CEO.’ She would decide the recess activity; she would be scorekeeper, coach and statistician; she had a ‘craving’ for power and control.”
Tripp concluded his message with an exhortation that the classroom can become a redemptive community where the grace of God is rehearsed and released. Practically, for Tripp, this has meant on occasion, apologizing unconditionally to his students for his own angry outbursts.
The morning’s sharing struck a chord with eduNet member, Andrew Chong, a teacher at National Junior College. He enthused, “I now envision how I can be a better educator through the way I teach values and handle conflicts among students to empower them to learn for life.”
TCF, which was formed in 1968, has been holding prayer meetings since 2006. Prayer meetings are now held once a term, usually on the last Saturday of the school holidays.