The Heart of Education

The Heart of Education

Thursday, 8 August 2019  | Jacqui - Teacher and Learning Coordinator

Our vision at MECS is ‘Seeking the Kingdom of God in education.’ Our goal is to provide an authentic Christian education where students are encouraged to learn about who they are in God, and to live out the hope of Christ in the world. How do we aim for this lofty goal in the school curriculum as well as the day-to-day practices of MECS? That is the question we continue to seek to answer as a teaching and learning community.

Traditionally, we have focussed on encouraging students to develop and live out of a Christian worldview. While important, when overemphasised this approach can lead to a view of students as simply thinking beings, or ‘brains on sticks.’ When studying education at university, we learnt about the metaphor of the ‘Nuremberg Funnel’ when thinking about how we view our learners. This is where the teacher pours the knowledge into the funnel that flows straight into the student’s brain. However, over time, we have come to realise that education is not just the transferring of thoughts and ideas.

Over the last five to ten years, Christian educators across the globe have been inspired by the work of North American Christian philosopher, James K. A. Smith. He puts the spotlight on the ‘heart’ element of education. Our students are not just ‘thinking’ beings, but ‘loving’ beings. Smith reasons that education should be about shaping or forming the loves and desires of our learners. As Christians, we want our students to love what God loves. We want them to want to love what God loves. We seek to help our students find out who their Creator God created them to be.

Our students are already being taught what to love. Society and media readily tell them what the ‘good life’ looks like. It usually involves fame, beauty, popularity, fortune, endless doing, a focus on self, and the acquisition of ’stuff.’ Smith tells us that we underestimate the extent to which our loves are formed by ’secular liturgies’ that train us to love other gods. Liturgies are simply formative practices. They might not be something that we necessarily set out to do, but they certainly do something to us.

In a recent editorial, Narelle mentioned that over 40 MECS staff members attended the International Transforming Education Conference in Adelaide during the third week of the school holidays. One of the keynote speakers, Jefferson Bethke, encouraged us to think about the rhythms and liturgies that we intentionally embed in our daily, weekly and yearly practices. Following in the thinking of Smith, Bethke taught us that by focussing on these rhythms and routines, we can help shape the Godly loves of our children. These rhythms train our hearts. They recalibrate our hearts so that we can love like Christ does. In his prayer to his Creator God, Saint Augustine famously wrote, “You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”

Our teachers came back from Adelaide excited about thinking of practical ways we can embed formative practices into our daily rhythms. We were also challenged to reimagine our current practices and be mindful of the implicit messages they tell us about what we should love. How can we encourage our students to have a heart for justice, mercy, hospitality, acceptance, generosity, kindness? In seeking the Kingdom of God, we seek the ‘good life’ as defined by the true King, Jesus Christ. 

For those who came to the Primary production of The Lion King JR last week, you will have already heard one of the initiatives that came out of ITEC. A team of primary teachers developed a MECS version of Bethke’s ‘Breakfast Benediction.’ Before the production, the Primary students stood and declared who they are as children of God. This is their identity. This is their story. And they declare it and receive it every morning in their classes.  Perhaps we could all say this prayer each morning…

I am a Child of God.

I have a Strong Heart and a Strong Mind.

I am loved by God.

It’s who I am.

No one can take it from me.

I’m not what I do.

I’m not what I have.

I’m not what people say about me.

I don’t have to worry.

I can be calm and peaceful.

I can feel safe.

I can trust my friend Jesus, and share his love with the world.


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