The Westminster Way of Teaching

All schools hope to produce students familiar with a wide range of information from broadly based fields of study. All schools hope to produce students of good character with a finely tuned sense of social responsibility. But as outlined in the mission statement above, the purpose of education at Westminster Christian Academy is much larger: as a school shaped by the Reformed tradition, Westminster’s commitment is to prepare students to uncover and to use their God-given gifts so that they may offer hope and healing to a world badly in need of both. It is not enough that students know the intricacies of mathematics or science or music; they must grasp how these disciplines—and every other discipline as well—have been created by God to help us understand the beauty of His creation, the tragedy of the Fall, and the importance of commitment to restoration and reconciliation in whatever sphere of influence God places them.

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Teachers who embrace that task must recognize three fundamental principles immediately. The first is that whatever their aptitudes or talents, all students have been created in God’s image and must not only be treated with the dignity that is inherently theirs but be given the chance to exercise their unique gifts as well. Therefore, Westminster must honor the divinely ordained abilities of all students and offer a program that provides students with diverse skills and interests an opportunity to thrive. The second is that education must be far more than the dissemination of information. Information is important, for students must grasp the Who? and When? and What? and Where? if they are to discover their place in God’s world. But that information must be a springboard to a personal understanding of how that information connects to them and how they can use that information to make a difference in this world. Finally, students must recognize that though all knowledge and wisdom comes from God, Christians do not have a monopoly on truth. Therefore, it is appropriate and fitting that students explore how God has used Christians and non-Christians alike to reveal how He has shaped the world and has acted to influence the lives of men and women throughout the ages.

Because we believe so strongly in this mission, we here at Westminster care deeply about teacher training, and through the Center for Teaching and Learning (the CTL) have created a two-pronged induction program, a mentoring program, an evaluation program and an on-going professional development program. Throughout these programs, we try to communicate a consistent message of all that we believe about teaching and learning so that the entire faculty understands both what we believe effective instruction looks like and how best to facilitate student achievement.

The principles below guide our message to our faculty:

Community

  • Central to effective teaching is the relationship between student and teacher. Teachers who do not love teenagers cannot be effective.
  • Humility must be part of a teacher’s make-up. No teacher can touch every student, no teacher can ever master the profession, and no teacher can ever stop learning. Therefore, collaboration is part of the ethos of Westminster as teachers work together to help each other grow personally and professionally.
  • Teachers are highly encouraged to become involved in the life of the school beyond the classroom, whether through leading or attending co-curricular activities.

Classroom Practice

  • Teachers are expected to create learning opportunities that ask students to wrestle with difficult concepts and skills.
  • Since the goal of Christian education is a life of service in the crucible of the world, Westminster teachers seek to be much more than dispensers of facts and formulas. They seek to engage their students in the issues and questions of life and culture that matter deeply by creating classroom activities that challenge them to think and ask and refuse to settle for easy answers.
  • Teachers are expected to utilize a variety of instructional techniques based upon the needs of their students.
  • Good teaching can take many forms, but the key question each teacher must ask is this: “Are all of my students learning?”
  • Because the goal of instruction is student learning, assessments should be viewed as a diagnosis of a student’s progress, not solely as a measure of his or her level of academic achievement.
  • Because we believe that students must be allowed to wrestle with critical questions and not just be passive recipients of information, we recognize that teachers may often have to sacrifice coverage of material in the interest of digging deeply into life’s larger issues.
  • Though literacy in each discipline takes on a unique flavor, all teachers should enable students to acquire the tools to become literate in their field by helping them to understand the specific vocabulary, strategies, skills, and critical questions of their discipline.
  • As part of a collaborative community of learners who recognize the unity of all knowledge, teachers here are expected to make connections between the disciplines in an effort to synthesize them into a comprehensive perspective of biblical truth.

Teaching from a Reformed Perspective

  • Teaching is a profoundly important profession in that it shapes lives, influences the culture, and prepares the next generation for their role in the kingdom of God.
  • Crucial to a child’s education is the discovery of his or her specific gifts and the opportunity to develop those gifts to the best of his or her ability in order to play a redemptive role in the home, in the church, and in the community.
  • All truth is God’s truth; thus, non-Christians and Christians alike can shape our understanding of God’s world.

Secular ideas are not dangerous in the context of a guided discussion led by a thoughtful Christian teacher but provide a bridge of communication and understanding for Christians seeking to be agents of redemption in a fallen world.