The following is an excerpt from Mr. Dunham’s opening message, “Clinging to Calling: Vocation for the Here and Now,” at this week’s Faculty & Staff Orientation.
What does calling look like in the classroom? In our context, a faculty member who has embraced his or her calling takes the following approach:
– He or she is always prepping. I’m not just talking lesson plans and seating charts (though those are important); I mean being spiritually ready to do what needs to be done. If your heart is unprepared to love students, if your sin is unconfessed, if your Bible is not read, if your prayers are not prayed, what is it that you are bringing to your role? The only answer you’re left with is yourself, and none of us are that good. Doug Wilson, in a message given at this year’s Logos Summer Teacher Training, said, “Everything going on at your school is going to have something to do with everyone’s walk with God.” How will your walk with God affect Petra Academy?
– He or she is mindful of mimesis. Mimesis is the modeling of – not just teaching – an ideal. The degree to which you are virtuous in your approach is the degree to which you can teach virtue – otherwise, the hypocrisy is too great. If I am going to teach my 8th graders the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control), my approach in doing so cannot consist of the opposite (hate, despair, turmoil, exasperation, rudeness, evil, harshness, infidelity, and unrestraint). Can you imagine being taught by someone like this? This is hypocrisy in its worst form.
– He or she explains the “meta-.” “Meta-” is the sense of the “why” to go with the “what” and the “how”. If we can’t answer why we’re teaching something, we should stop teaching it until we can. There is much value in pulling back with our students and reminding them of the “why” of “what” and “how” we’re doing, of showing them the box cover of the puzzle that goes with all the pieces they’re trying to put together. Simply put: the “why” of the “what” and “how” matters.
– He or she pursues relationship. As faculty, we must have a ministry of presence as we relate to our students. Teaching is hard, but it doesn’t have to be harder than it needs to be; much of it is simply doing the things our favorite teachers did – listening to students, taking them seriously, imparting them with truth, goodness, and beauty, and loving them unconditionally along the way.
The degree that most qualifies you for our mission is not from any college or university; it is your degree of commitment that matters most:
“Recognizing our need for God’s grace, Petra Academy strives to awaken love and wonder in our students by teaching to observe with humility, think with reason, and articulate with charity for the flourishing of humanity and the renown of Jesus the Christ.”
Jesus’ words in Luke 16:10 are still true: “He who is faithful with very little will be faithful with much.”
Let us cling to this calling in the hope of being so faithful.