Reimagining Practice

Reimagining Practice

Thursday, 25 July 2019  | Narelle-Principal

Last week 45 of our staff were in Adelaide to attend ITEC19. ITEC (International Transforming Education Conference) occurs every four years and invites Christian educators from around Australia, but also colleagues in countries like Canada, New Zealand and the UK, to join together to ask questions about the transformation of educational practice in Christian schools and other places of learning. We also seek to ask questions of Christian education’s effectiveness in transforming the heart, mind, and life of every student.

This year the focus of the conference was on re-imagining our practice. How can we use our God-given creativity and imagination to consider better practice in the classrooms, playgrounds, staff rooms, and board rooms? Christian education finds itself in a cultural moment characterised by an accelerating push towards a humanistic and self-autonomous framing of life and world. Are our current practices best placed to support students to navigate learning about themselves and their world in this context? What creative re-imagining of practice would it be timely to consider, and reconsider? Are Christian schools willing to critically embrace pedagogical innovation, and challenge traditional structures and practices? What does faithfulness to the gospel look like in this new cultural world?

An important aspect of this was an understanding that we, ourselves, are being continually formed and shaped. As those involved in education, our understandings have been informed by our own experiences of schooling, our own training, our experiences of faith, all of which are culturally bound. Christian education is more than speaking or teaching about a biblical worldview, and more than seeking to express Christ’s love to students. In the very ordinary parts of teaching, such as the way we set up classrooms, how we use ICT equipment, our assessment methods, the homework we give, we are presenting a way of life and shaping young people.

This experience was such a rich opportunity for our staff. These questions, and many more, were at the heart of many presentations and workshops. We were also thrilled to realise that many of the practices already embraced and embedded by MECS were held as best-practice exemplars as we seek to be Christ-centred, but child orientated.

The highlight for many were the keynote presentations by Dr David S. (For those teachers not able to attend the conference, they also interacted with David’s material throughout the week back at school.) David is a strong proponent of our Christian classrooms being places of community, welcome and hospitality. He challenged delegates about the simple routines of each day that either individualise the educational task, or those that invite each student into a communal sense of responsibility, that welcomes and recognises the ‘other’ and builds curriculum and pedagogy around a sense of hospitality for, and with each other. He spoke powerfully about the role of parents in this task and how they can be more than just passive observers and he critiqued the desire for Christian schools to be ‘distinctive’. The goal towards distinctiveness, he reasoned, often led schools to do things just so they can be different, or perhaps led schools to think they were more distinctive than they were! He challenged us that the call to authentic Christian education was one of faithfulness, not distinctiveness. Don’t get caught up in the gimmicks, or be detracted by those who just want a ‘nice’ school, but work hard at being faithful to the gospel and promoting the vision of your school as a grace-filled, welcoming community.

Having so many staff attend this conference was a major undertaking. We thank God that we were able to make provision for so many teaching and support staff to attend and our ongoing prayer is that much fruit will come from this experience as teachers and colleagues continue to ‘mull over’ and collaborate together as we seek to be faithful in this place.


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