I am not a teacher in the traditional sense. No classroom or assigned students. That doesn’t mean I don’t teach on a regular basis. I lead a Bible study. I coach fitness classes. I work with the 2 year olds at church. My amazing sister Liz sent me this book when I started leading my community group’s Bible study and it has given me a wonderful new perspective on my role as a teacher.
Dr. Howard Hendricks is a well known author and professor at Dallas Theological Seminary….apparently. I had never heard of him before. He offers great insights into teaching by pointing to an amazing teacher from the past and present, Jesus. He regularly points back to the gospel throughout the book but more than that, he points to the effective teaching methods of Jesus. He breaks the book down into an acrostic that he calls the “laws of teaching”, spelling out the word T-E-A-C-H-E-R. His writing is clear and concise. The book is only about 150 pages long.
This work is applicable to any teaching endeavor but Hendricks tends to use examples focused around Church teaching and Sunday school. You’ll have to use your imagination and be creative in applying it to your own particular field.
A few of the highlights for me were.
1. The value of self-evaluation as a teacher. Am I growing? If you stop growing yourself, you stop teaching. What are my strengths and weaknesses? In what areas do I need to grow and change?
2. What matters is not what you do as a teacher, but what your students do as a result.
3. Your goal should be to teach people how to think, learn, and work. Never do for a student what they are capable of doing for themselves.
4. Teachers should facilitate an active learning process with clear objectives that stress function and application. Jesus did not just throw knowledge at people. He actively involved his students in the learning process.
5. Give your students a sphere of freedom. Direct rather than dictate and let them hang themselves in the process if they so choose.
6. Encouragement is key. One of your primary tasks as a teacher is to convincingly impart to your students how much you believe in them and their ability to succeed. Teaching is most effective when students are properly, intrinsically motivated. Your job is to trigger this.
7. Teachers are in the communication business, but they must earn the right to communicate with their students. Not just with words. There is an emotional element to communication.
8. You must engage the total person. Not just the mind. The will and the emotion are important as well. You must know your students. If they understand that you know and love them then your ability to teach will be more effective.
9. Be prepared and unpredictable. Teach in such a way that your students say, “Oh yeah, that makes sense but I never thought of it that way.” Jesus was far too unpredictable to ever be boring.
10. Humbly accept that you are NOT God’s answer to every individual.
This is a great book for anyone that teaches anything and is willing to make the investment to make their teaching better.