In his book What Great Teachers Do Differently, author Todd Whitaker writes,
Teachers are the filters for the day-to-day reality of school. Whether we are aware of it or not, our behavior sets the tone. If students overhear us whining and complaining about something, it may be the talk of the school for days even if it was something minor. By the same token, if we always approach things in a positive manner, then this is what the students reflect. The most effective educators understand this and choose their filters carefully.
Whitaker has hit on a foundational truth of education: teachers are always teaching, both with their words and their lives, both inside the classroom and out, whether they intend to or not. Simply put, much more is caught than taught. As the Lord Jesus taught in Luke 6:40, a pupil “is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.” Or as David Hicks wrote, “The most important thing, therefore, about a classical, Christian education is that faculty members exhibit in themselves the virtues and values that we want to see in our students. Thus, in the classroom the teacher is the primary text.” When I hear an author use the phrase “most important thing,” my ears tend to perk up.
Providence teachers truly take these words to heart. Imperfect as we are, we know that we must seek to be the example of Christlike virtue, love for learning, and maturity that we want to see in our students. In Whitaker’s words, we must see ourselves as the “filters for the day-to-day reality of school.” If our school will be a place of joy, obedience, patience, diligence, compassion, inquiry, and respect, then our words, actions, and attitudes must embody these very traits.
It strikes me as I write these words that the same truth equally applies not only to teachers but also to parents. When Moses commanded Israel to teach God’s law diligently to their children, he first charged parents to place the commands of God’s law in their own hearts and then to “talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. . . bind them as a sign on your hand, and . . . as frontlets between your eyes. . . write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-8). We are never to stop teaching God’s Word to our children; their entire environment is to be filled with God and the blessed standards of His law. We are to bring up our children in a culture dominated by the holiness and love of God in Christ, what St. Paul calls “the discipline [or paideia] and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
A teacher’s calling – and that of parents, too – is not merely to teach lessons but to immerse children in the paideia of the Lord, a total environment built on loving God and His Word.
When the Holy Spirit empowers parents and teachers to live, speak, and love His Word, and we do so intentionally, and lovingly, in the presence of our children, “filtering” what we say and do (and how we do it) in a Christlike way, powerful results follow. God works in the lives of our children powerfully through the gospel of Christ. And this is surely more to be desired than great riches.