The Passion of a Reformed Teacher
Speech delivered to the graduating class of 2002 at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers College, May 31st, 2002
By Rev. George van Popta
I would like to address the graduating students on the topic of "The Passion of a Reformed Teacher." I want to encourage you to be passionate Reformed teachers. Passionately Reformed and passionate about teaching.
As a Reformed teacher, you must be passionate in five different directions. As a Reformed believer teaching in a Reformed school, you must have five great loves.
Your first love must be God. You must be a woman, a man of God. You need to love God with every fibre of your being. As our Lord Jesus Christ taught us, the first great commandment is to love the LORD our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
If you love God you will be a praying person. When you are teaching, make sure you start every day off with prayer. Thank God for the great privilege of teaching His covenant youth. Pray for your students. For your colleagues. For yourself. Pray that you will be a blessing to your students.
If you love God, you will obey Him. You will put Him first in your life.
If you love God, it will show. It will radiate from you, and your students will see and feel that. Let them see that you are a man, a woman of God. Someone who is passionate about God. Who loves God intensely and extensively.
Love the Word of God
Secondly, love the Word of God. Love the Bible, God's revelation. God's letter to us.
If you love the Word of God, you will read it. Read it every day. Before you leave for school, read the Bible, even if it's only a few verses. A few verses of scripture to nourish you and sustain you throughout the day.
If you love the Word of God, it will control how you live. How you conduct yourself inside and outside the classroom. How you interact with your colleagues and with your students.
Be passionate about the Word of God. Weave it through the warp and woof of your life. This will radiate from you. You will be seen and known by your students as someone who loves God and His holy Word.
Love the Reformed confession
And then, love the Reformed confession. Be passionate about the Reformed confession. Do not ever be embarrassed about being Reformed.
The Reformed confession summarizes so well what the Bible teaches about God, man, and the world we live in.
a. The Reformed confession speaks about the transcendent God who is far above his creation; who has created all things and, in his providence, sustains them. But it also speaks about the immanent God who has come near to us in His Word, and in the fullness of time, in His Son Jesus Christ, and then even in the person of the Holy Spirit. Stay immersed in the Reformed confessions (the Belgic, the Heidelberg and the Canons) and you will find your mind focused on God who is both transcendent and immanent.
b. The Reformed confession speaks about man. It speaks about the original dignity of man—about how God created man in His own image. It speaks about how man fell into sin and under the wrath of God. About how depravity has crept into every part of man. It speaks about how God sets us free from sin by the blood of Christ and regenerates us by the Spirit of Christ.
If you love the Reformed confession and stay immersed in it, you will have a good view of man, also of the children in your classroom. Of what man was; of what man became; and of what man is called to be.
c. The Reformed confession speaks about the world we live in. God is the creator of all things. This world belongs to him. We are stewards. As his image we are to work with what he has given us in this world. God is also the Lord of world history. He is bringing the history of this world along, according to his sovereign and good plan, to its perfect conclusion. In the mean time, we are to work in the world, in history, as long as it is still day.
Love your Reformed confession. Be conscious of God as both transcendent and immanent. Be conscious of who we are as redeemed people. Be conscious of the world you live in and the movement of history. And you will be a good teacher.
Then, you must love children. If you do not love children, pick up your diploma tonight and find a job in a restaurant, on a construction site or a farm. Drive a truck; work at a dry cleaners; go back to school and study law; do anything but teach children.
If you want to teach children, you need to love children—unconditionally. If you love the children, they will know it. And they will love you back.
To love the children does not mean to be a big marshmellow and soft on them. No! Be strict with them. Run a tight ship with tight but fair discipline. I am sure your professors have spoken to you about the need for classroom management. I heard once that a novice teacher does well not to smile until after Christmas. Teaching is one of the most difficult professions there is. As I read somewhere: "Housework is a breeze. Cooking is a pleasant diversion. Putting up a retaining wall is a lark. But teaching is like climbing a mountain." You are undertaking a very demanding but most beautiful and delightful profession. One of the keys to being a good and successful teacher is love for the children. Uncompromising love.
Love God; love the Word, love the Reformed confession; love the children.
You need, finally, to love to learn. A teacher needs first to be a student. You have all come out of years of post-secondary education. You are sick of being students. Well, I hate to break the news to you: If you want to be an effective teacher, you need to remain a student. You need to love learning.
Keep reading; keep studying; keep learning. As long as you keep studying you will remain fresh, energized, excited and exciting. Be passionate about learning new things. Keep learning new angles to the old things. Internalize what you learn and then be a medium for that knowledge to your students.
My friends, be a passionate Reformed teacher. Love learning. Love children. Love the Reformed confession. Love the Word of God. Love God.
Be passionate in these five directions. You will be an effective teacher; a good teacher; a teacher in whose classroom I would love to be.