THE ART OF TEACHING
BY GARY D. ERICKSON
Art could be defined as the human ability to make things creatively with skill and craftsmanship, to do things that display beauty, form, and unusual perception. As opposed to art, science could be defined as the use of rules and principles for the purpose of creating order and perfection. Howard Hendricks said,
“Teaching is both a science and an art. As a science it involves basic laws. As an art, it involves knowing the exception to the laws.”
Much time is spent explaining the laws and principles of teaching but little is said about the art of teaching. The art of teaching could be one of the finest and certainly one of the most important arts. Teaching as an artist not only requires talent and creativity but discipline and hard work. Emerson said, “The artist must sacrifice to their art, like the bees, they must put their lives into the sting they give.” Becoming a creative teacher requires an investment of time, energy, and self-sacrifice. The arti stic teacher goes beyond the rules of the order and procedure and allows the material being taught to marinate in his own soul until it becomes an integral part of his life. Then through the teacher’s unique personality, background, temperament and presence the information is presented in a kind of natural flow, allowing his or her own personality to mold the teaching in a creative personalized way. Henry Ward Beecher said, “Every artist dips his brush into his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.”
Most great painters, athletes, musicians, orators, teachers, and actors are born with innate talent. But if they do not develop their talent with practice, training, study and hard work they will never reach their full potential. Talent alone is not enough to make an artist.
Jesus the Artistic Teacher
The life of Jesus is the paradigm of all good virtues. He sets the standard of perfection and effectiveness as the greatest teacher who ever lived. He did not travel around the country with a book of lessons, printed workbooks, pre-tooled overhead projector charts, and a systematic lesson plan. He was an artist, taking advantage of the opportunities as they came – teaching with objects, situations, and human drama. Even those who disagreed stood spell bound as He extempor-aneously proclaimed trust from every day events. He seized the opportunity to offer living water to the weary woman at the well of Samaria. He disagreed with His disciples and embraced the little children using them as role models for a hypocritical crowd. As His disciples grappled for position and preeminence, He stooped and washed their dirty feet, profoundly illustrating who was the greatest. He settled the tax issue by asking for a coin and baffling His critics with simple yet profound wisdom. What an artist He was the day He drove the money changers from the temple!
How could Jesus be so quick and clever? How could He be so creative? How did He capitalize on common events and mundane happenings to impact the listeners with eternal truth? Jesus certainly had an edge, being the Son of God. Nevertheless, the principles of the creative process never change. Talent is not the main ingredient in being a teacher like Jesus. The process of creativity will reveal those vital ingredients.
The Anatomy of Creativity
Stage No. 1-“Paving the way”: This is the stage of intense preparation, immersing yourself in the subject. This is the hard work of research, accumulating the facts, proving the principle, and establishing the foundation. A secret ingredient in the creativity process is summed up in these words “the harder I work the luckier I get.” Albert Einstein discovered relativity because he immersed himself in physics. Henry Ford invented the assembly line because he was a tinkerer and a mechanic. Thomas Edison invented the light bulb from thousands of experiments. After he had tried 10,000 experiments with the storage battery that failed, a friend tried to console him, and he replied, “Why, I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” He said genius was “One per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration.”
The artistic teacher cannot avoid this state of hard work. Having a bastion of information stored away in our memory and having the principle thoroughly settled in our own mind provides the foundation for great ideas. If Apostle Paul had not been versed in the Scriptures and had not had a personal relationship with Jesus, he would have never preached his famous and creative sermon on Mars Hill entitled “The Unknown God.”
Stage No. 2- “Incubation”: After you have pushed your mind to the limit, you begin to prayerfully digest the material. We might say, “Sleep on it.” This stage allows the information to go in and out of your mind as you go about other things. This allows what you have learned to be mixed with many different thoughts, conscious an subconscious, forming a stew of creative potential. Our subconscious is a vast storehouse of information from which come great ideas.
Paul McCready built the first human powered airplane. This airplane is different from any airplane you have ever seen. It looks like a giant, grotesque, transparent albatross – but it works! This achievement required con siderable aerodynamic knowledge and also outstanding creativity. Paul McCready confessed that most of his really great ideas came while shaving.
Stage No. 3- “Illumination”: Sometimes it is at the most unsuspecting moments that a flash of illumination will come. A painter named Grant Wood said, “All the really good ideas I ever had came while milking the cow.’ Sometimes it will be in quiet meditation, prayer, daydreaming, or doing some small task that great ideas come. Be prepared to write them down.
Being thoroughly prepared and allowing that good preparation to marinate
with your own personality and life experience will expose you to the catalyst of inspiration which in turn will produce a flash of creativity. It will sometimes come in the classroom from a student’s question or comment. Preachers learn early that some of their greatest thoughts come while actually preaching a sermon.
These moments of creative teaching can be experienced by any teacher. Consider the following points in the
1. Everyone can be creative: There is not a certain group of people who are creative, but we all have an area for expertise from which to draw our creative resources.
2. Be willing to try new things: The artistic teacher must be willing to try new things. Excessive fears can stymie the flow of creative juices.
3. Be willing to make a mistake: Not all of our ideas will work. Just abandon them and move on to others. Albert Einstein put it plainly, “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”
4. Be willing to look at things from fresh perspective: When we blindly follow old patterns we can’t see the forest for the trees. It takes an unusual mind to undertake an analysis of the obvious, but this is the fertile ground for new ideas and innovative teaching methods.
5. Love and persistence. Anne Sullivan taught Helen Keller, who was blind and deaf, to communicate using hand signs of the alphabet to the palm. Weeks of teaching proved unfruitful, yet Mrs. Sullivan persisted. Helen Keller was cut off from the world in lonely isolation until the day of illumination came-when she connected water with the cool fluid spilling over her hands at the family well. Helen Keller describes the moment: “In her hand she spelled W-A-T-E-R emphatically. I stood still, my whole body and attention fixed on the motions of her fingers. As the cool stream flowed over my hand, all at once, there was a strange stir within me, a misty consciousness, a sense of something remembered. It was as if I had come back to life after being dead.”
6. The anointing: God has always set aside objects (Old Testament) and people as special vessels for His service. The sweet aromatic anointing oil was used extensively under the law of Moses to symbolize God’s special sanctification. As a Holy Ghost filled teacher sometimes our inspiration and illumination will come directly by the Holy Ghost. Being open to this supernatural source provides a wonderful advantage.
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”-William Arthur Ward
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED IN THE FALL 1994 ISSUE OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATOR MAGAZINE, AND WAS WRITTEN BY GARY D. ERICKSON. THIS MATERIAL HAS BEEN COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR RESEARCH AND STUDY PURPOSES ONLY.
THE ABC’S OF SUNDAY SCHOOL TEACHING
BY GEORGIA SMELSER
As teachers, we should continually strive to develop and fine-tune our teaching skills. The following twenty-six qualities and techniques are listed for self-evaluation:
A is for Attitude: A healthy, upbeat attitude toward your teaching commitment, the teaching staff, and pupils in your class will make you a valued member of the team. Go beyond the basic requirements.
“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with your might” (Ecclesiastes 9: 1 0).
B is for Bridge Builder: A teacher finds out what a pupil knows and builds a bridge of understanding to truths and concepts of the lesson. The teacher, with the Holy Spirit’s assistance, should span the gap between the known and the unknown. Knowing your pupils and God’s Word well, will help you reach this important goal.
C is for Consecration: A dedication or consecration for the teaching ministry keeps a teacher aware that teaching God’s Word is a spiritual commitment. “Ye serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:24).
D is for Dependability: A teacher who is dependable and who can be counted on to carry his load, is a valuable team member.
E is for Enthusiasm: The enthusiastic teacher is open to new ideas. The intensity, eagerness and fervor he shows is contagious. “Iron sharpeneth iron” (Proverbs 27:27).
F is for Friendliness: A friendly teacher can help create a friendly, warm classroom. A warm greeting, a pat on the back, a smile, a compliment and an easy laugh helps make a Sunday school classroom a happy place.
G is for Generosity: The time, talents, and money God gives us is to be shared. It is an investment when we give them to the cause of Christ in teaching and nurturing pupils. “He which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully” (11 Corinthians 9:6).
H is for Hope: Look beyond personality flaws and believe that a pupil has great potential which, by God’s grace, can develop. Believe in your pupils. Keep hope alive. “It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord” (Lamentations 3:26).
I is for Interesting Lessons: Read the lesson in the Bible to get the facts. Read it in the teacher’s manual for methods and other creative ideas. Read it in a commentary for your own private research. Brainstorm and add your own special touches to the lesson. The more interesting the lessons, the better the attention and retention.
J is for Jesus: Jesus is what it is all about. Learning to love and please Jesus is the focal point of everything we teach. Let the love of Jesus flow from your heart to the hearts of your pupils as you magnify and lift Him up.
K is for Kindness: A kind and caring teacher will long be remembered. Kindness should be present even DURING times when discipline problems are addressed. Love suffers long and is kind.
L is for Love: Love is the bridge from law to grace.
Teach about love, show love by your voice, reflect it by following up absentees, by praying for pupils, by being the best teacher you can be.
M is for Memory Work: From nursery age children to senior adults, from bite-sized portions of verses to larger passages, God’s Word should be memorized and hidden in hearts. Find interesting incentives and creative methods to use when encouraging pupils to memorize. Verses learned in childhood can be retained into adulthood. These verses can give direction, correction, comfort, and help us when praying or worshiping.
N is for Nurture: A teacher gets a possible fifty-two Sundays per year to provide spiritual food, encouragement, instruction, education, and training for pupils in the ways of the Lord. Make each Sunday count.
O is for Order: Along with creative and active teaching methods, good routine and order are needed to create a healthy climate for learning.
P is for Prayer: Never underestimate the power of prayer. Pray as you prepare your lesson that spiritual and physical needs will be met in pupils’ lives. Call your pupils’ names in private prayer and during class time when praying at various times.
Q is for Qualified Teacher: Apply yourself to the ministry of teaching. Be a qualified and competent teacher-“a workman that needeth not to be ashamed” Timothy 2:15).
R is for review: Facts learned need to be reinforced and embedded in pupils’ minds with creative and INTERESTING review methods. Application of knowledge is important, and frequent, thorough reviews help keep knowledge ready to use.
S is for Story-telling Techniques: Study the story until facts are memorized and in sequential order. Use appropriate emotions, varying voice inflections, animated facial expressions, interesting details, touches of humor, touches of costumes (at times) such as a shawl, robe, fake beard etc., and simple props such as a sewing basket, clay pot, food items.
T is for Thankfulness: Manifest a thankful spirit. Thank pupils for small courtesies shown. In prayer always find several things for which to express thankfulness. Accentuate the positive with a grateful spirit. It’s contagious.
U is for Unbiased Attitude: Guard against having “teacher’s pets.” Well-behaved pupils may be easier to love, but all the pupils need your love and acceptance. Let your love span racial and cultural differences.
V is for Visual Aids: Use the overhead projector, chalkboard, flip chart, flashcards, objects, flannelgraph, stand-up figures, paper sack and other varieties of puppets, and handmade word cards to help the Bible stories come alive. Information learned with the use of visuals is recalled and remembered longer.
W is for Willing Workers: The Apostle Paul in speaking of his own ministry, said, “If I do this thing willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me” (I Corinthians 9:17).
X is for extra mile: Go beyond the general requirements when teaching, offering more of your time, talents, and finances to enhance the teaching process.
Y is for You: You can be a channel through which the anointing of the Holy Ghost can flow to minister to the needs of your pupils. Anointed lessons can go straight to the heart and can minister in a way far beyond our human capabilities.
Z is for Zenith: The zenith, peak, or culmination of teaching is to help people discover how to go to heaven and to teach them how to enjoy the journey.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED IN THE FALL 1994 ISSUE OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATOR’S MAGAZINE, AND WAS WRITTEN BY GEORGIA SMELSER. THIS MATERIAL HAS BEEN COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR RESEARCH AND STUDY PURPOSES ONLY.