Sunday, July 4, 2021

On Becoming a Good Teacher

Good morning everyone and Happy Fourth! My morning Bible reading today was in Romans 12.

Can't we just let posturing continue? No, says Paul. Posturing creates nice, fake relationships. It's not what we say that counts. It's what we do. Presenting a fake life to others produces "insincere love" (verse 9). It's far better to be real. This includes the career path I chose for myself 44 years ago. Paul says so himself. "If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching" (verse 7).

Do a good job of teaching.

Jesus doesn't require perfection from us teachers. But he does require that we do our very best. When I think of excellence in teaching, I think of Dr. Bill Bynum. He headed the Education Department at Biola while I was there. He was the best teacher I have ever had. Busy-work in classes? Not a drop. Personalized attention? Whenever you needed it. He was always there for his students. His office door was always open. He would grade your essay exam (no silly fill-in-the-blanks or multiple guess questions for him!) and then write on it something like: "Great work, Dave! I'll take a dozen just like you!"

The year I began teaching Greek, I took two classes with Dr. Bynum: College Teaching Procedures, and Tests and Measurements. I soaked up the content. Teachers are born, not made. But even a naturally gifted teacher can improve their craft. The one thing a teacher must never be is boring. "There's no such thing as a boring teacher," said Bill Bynum. "If he's boring, he's not a teacher." (Incidentally, for you preacher types out there, last week in his message Chuck Swindoll called out all the boring preachers he's heard through the years. He wondered out loud, "How in the world can anybody make the Bible boring?" Yet I've sat through far more boring sermons in my lifetime than interesting ones.)

Here in Romans 12, I think Paul tells us what a good teacher looks like. He doesn't do this directly but through inference. Let me share with you 4 such characteristics I find here:

1) Good teachers love their students. "Don't just pretend that you love others: really love them .... Love each other with brotherly affection and take delight in honoring each other" (Rom. 12:9-10). Do your students know that you love them ? Do you say to them in class, "I love you"? Do you treat them with kindness and respect?

2) Good teachers reach out. "When God's children are in need, you be the one to help them" (Rom. 12:13). Do your students know you are accessible? Do you have an open door policy? Can they contact you easily and will they get a response within 24 hours?

3) Good teachers are humble. "Don't try to act big. Don't try to get into the good graces of important people, but enjoy the company of ordinary folks. And don't think you know it all!" (Rom. 12:16). The longer I'm a teacher, the less I know. Even views I do hold I hold with fear and trepidation, knowing that I may be wrong. Do your students see in you a humble, teachable person?

4) Finally, good teachers work hard. "Never be lazy in your work but serve the Lord enthusiastically" (Rom. 12:11). Elton Trueblood once said, "Holy shoddy is still shoddy." I am probably the laziest person on the plant by nature. Sloth comes easily to me. Jesus deserves better than that. Do your students see in you a slothful or diligent teacher?

Again, perfection is not required. What is required is being the same person on the outside as we are on the inside. People know a good teacher when they see one. They can sense a fraud a mile away. Don't try and fake it. That never works.