Guest Blogger: Pam Gergen, 1st Grade, ECA
Looking back over the years, I can honestly say I have always wanted to be a teacher since my Kindergarten year…decades ago. I remember how each of my elementary teachers always had their rooms organized, neat, decorative but not chaotic and always had that one thing that was really special about their classroom. My favorite was my 2nd Grade classroom…Mrs. VanRochel had instilled a love of reading in me, and I could not get enough of the Boxcar Children books! In part due to the delightful replica of the Boxcar Children scene she had created right in the middle of our reading corner—complete with miniature figurines and a toy train boxcar!
When I began teaching at ECA ten years ago, my daughter had outgrown her “animal print” décor in her room so I adopted the theme in my classroom—The Jungle! Where kids were wild about learning! I had every imaginable animal print décor item that would even impress Martha Stewart—from toys to pillows to stuffed animals to blankets to large palm trees! Oh, what fun it was to decorate each year.
But as the years went on I realized that the heart of the classroom was not what theme I had nor the décor I had adorned the room with that year. The heart of the classroom was God. And I realized that my classroom needed to reflect that more openly without distraction. As delightful as it was to walk into my “jungle” classroom, I realized that it was becoming more of a distraction from the students’ learning and their ability to concentrate. I had gotten caught up in putting the atmosphere of creative and fun decorations as the center of the classroom rather than emphasizing God as the center of the classroom. Do not misunderstand, God was always at the center of all of our discussions weaved throughout all our subjects during the day. But I wanted to convey more of God in the atmosphere of my classroom as well—declutter, reorganize, and let the ambiance of the classroom emit the essence of God—a God of order. 1 Corinthians 14:33 reminds us that “God is not a God of disorder but of peace…” And as much as the monkey/jungle theme was near and dear to my heart, it seemed to create an atmosphere of fun and frolic and wildness….not exactly what I wanted to deal with every day when I wanted the students to focus and learn to love learning and see the truth, beauty, and goodness of all that God created.
This summer before the school year began, I worked on transforming my classroom into a peaceful, tranquil classroom with neutral colors, soft lighting, and an atmosphere of clean, neat, organized counters, tables, desks, and shelves. Along with bulletin boards that enhanced the atmosphere of calmness rather than inducing a frolicking, frivolous monkey mayhem feelingJ
But, most importantly, from the very start of the school year, I have been discussing and emphasizing with the students how important it is to strive to have Jesus in our heart so that God can be the center of our classroom. And once we put God as the center of our classroom and minimize the distraction of the environment around us, we as teachers can focus on and seek to nurture the whole student and help them see the integration of all subjects in God’s world. And we can help the students see that God is at the center and that all knowledge is governed by Him.
Ensuring that God is the center of our classrooms allows us to teach the students to love God by learning about the world as God’s universe, designed by His creative mind, governed by His laws, and sustained by His providential guidance. We can help the students to look for evidence of God’s design in all subjects, even math and language. Students can discover the logic of His universal natural laws as they study science and His unfolding plan as they encounter history. And they encounter His creativity in music, art, and literature.
Even though that tiny Boxcar Children display started me on the path of pursuing education all those years ago, for me, the true learning in our Christian classroom today is for the students to begin to gain that knowledge of God as manifested in literature, math, science, and the fine arts so they can praise God, our Lord and Savior. They are then able to worship God not just with their hearts and souls but with their minds. And it is our hope as teachers and parents that they will then go forth and impact others for God’s glory.