A model Transformational Classroom

Nurture

​Psalm 139 : 1-6

"You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain."

Being known is the ultimate human fulfillment. This is the foundation of self identity and relationship. We all long to be known and to be understood. We are designed for relationship and we feel the greatest nurture when we are given:

1. Attention

2. Affection

3. Affirmation

4. Acceptance.

A nurturing classroom includes personal and group times of each of these. Our experience tells us that students will give 100% attention and priority to such class time. This creates an environment of learning and giving to others in the classroom. The source of nurture has to be the teacher, who is being nurtured by the administration. This means that there have to be scheduled times of nurture from the administrator to the teacher, all within Biblical boundaries. Such nurture has to preserve the moral and emotional integrity of all who are involved in the TCR.

Education through transformation

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Some use the term transformational education to describe skills or attributes of individuals who are great teachers. We use the term to describe learning that occurs in relationships that connect people as they are being transformed by Jesus Christ. This section is about creating a web of relationships between administrators, teachers, and students, we call this the TCR (Web of Transformational Classroom Relationships). We have also used the acronym SCAN to communicate the relational dynamics that take place in the TCR. SCAN stands for Servanthood, Credibility, Authority, and Nurture. Administrators, teachers, students, and parents have all testified to the power of this web of relationships to transform their lives.

While many people don't want to believe that Jesus is God incarnate, they cannot but admit that He is a great teacher. His life and sermons model teaching par excellence. Jesus and His disciples formed a transformational classroom for 3 years before His ascension. In Matthew 11 Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." A brief reflection on this passage sheds a great deal of understanding on our lives as administrators, teachers, and students. Consider the following:

1. A classroom is made up of people who are weary and burdened. Perhaps weary from futility and burdened with ignorance, we are all challenged in ways more severe than we want to acknowledge.

2. A classroom is a place where a teacher can give rest to students. John 17, "Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" Knowing God in a relationship is different from adding knowledge about Him. True knowledge is gained in context of relationship, not merely recalling data.

3. A classroom is a place where learning from a teacher takes place. We are all for group learning and flipped classrooms, but ultimately, students must have a teacher to learn from. 

4. A teacher who is gentle and humble in heart makes learning easy. So many studies show the direct relationship between affect and cognition. The brain processes both emotions and cognitive thought in response to a given stimulus; but the emotive pathways are a fraction of a second faster than the cognitive ones. They can screen the stimulus before it reaches the cognitive pathways. Science is telling us that a humble and gentle teacher has better access to the cognitive part of the brain than a stern, proud, or angry teacher! 

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Our philosophy of Transformational Education

Founded in 2012, AIS has helped transform families in Aley, Lebanon and beyond. The motto of the school is BEAUTIFUL EDUCATION.  How can education be beautiful? It can be beautiful when it produces LOVE FROM A PURE HEART, A CLEAR CONSCIENCE, AND A SINCERE FAITH. This is well beyond stuffing heads with knowledge; it requires radical transformation in the classroom, both in the teacher and in the students. Ultimately, this transformation is reaching the parents and families as well. See the testimony in the video below.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
 

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Access International School is founded on a Biblical philosophy of teaching with belief that people have a fundamental sin problem as a result of an inherited sin nature. This problem is spiritual and it impacts the mind, will, and emotions as well as the physical well-being of the individual and society. The effects of the sin nature permeate every level of human social interaction and the result is an environment that is full of stress and conflict. This environment that results from sin influences the process of learning. Scientific evidence confirms that the environment has a direct impact on the types of neural pathways that are formed in the prefrontal lobe of the brain in early development, either enhancing or inhibiting modalities that are necessary for learning. In other words, the environment a child experiences in their early years determines the learning pathways that are functional in their brain! One example of the effect of environment on neural development is in the visual cortex where experiments on kittens show that pathways in the optic nerve, the lateral geniculate formation, and the visual cortex do not develop normally in the absence of light stimulus. For humans, early development begins in the embryo and continues into early childhood, which means that neural pathways for learning modalities are still forming during Kindergarten and grades 1, 2, and possibly later.

Amazingly, God provided a solution to the sin problem through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. He paid the penalty for our sin and, by His resurrection from the dead, He re-established our capacity for personal relationship with Him. This new kind of relationship is both redemptive and transformational. It redeems us in our standing with God as His children and it transforms us into the likeness of Jesus Christ; it transforms our minds, will, and emotions. It also transforms our relationships and the environment in which our children grow, thus providing the ideal environment for a child to realize their full brain development.

Our transformational classrooms are focused on extending the transforming power of a personal relationship between God and the administrator to the  teacher and then to the classroom. This means that the administrator-teacher-student web of relationships is the context in which transformational education takes place, with Jesus Christ as the center. In order to implement this strategy it is necessary to have the Bible as the guide book as well as administrators and teachers who are in a vibrant relationship with God. It is also necessary for the administrators, teachers, and students to be connected by healthy and effective relationships.

In summary, the goal of a transformational classroom is to change administrators, teachers, and students into the likeness of Jesus Christ. Being made into the likeness of Jesus Christ includes training in knowledge, understanding, wisdom, character, faith, hope, and love. This is what we call transformational education and it is concisely expressed in a verse in the Bible in which the apostle Paul writes to Timothy, "the goal of our teaching is love from a pure heart, a clean conscience, and a sincere faith."

Servanthood 

Modeled by Jesus Christ in John 13, "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet."  A major attribute of TCR relationships is servanthood. This is a dynamic of one considering themselves servants of God and imitating Jesus in His humility and sacrifice for the sake of others. In the classroom this translates into behavior that puts others first. The teacher is the one to set the pace for the rest, who gradually begin to see how good it feels to be in such relationships. Of course, serving is voluntary and students cannot be forced into it. It is established by consistent modeling and reminders from the administrators and teachers. Activities that promote this dynamic are:

  • Regular short prayer meetings between administrators and teachers and between teachers and students. Share prayer requests and pray for one another. This may be accomplished during morning chapel or another convenient time.
  • Bible studies that investigate the topic of servanthood, like Mark 10:45 which says, "for even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many."
  • Encourage responsible sharing of school supplies and snacks. Eating together forms long-term relational bonds that help resolve conflict in relationships.
  • Delegate to the students limited responsibility for classroom upkeep and cleanliness.
  • Adopt a community service project outside the classroom to serve together as a TCR. Document and celebrate achievements of the group.

How to Build a Transformational Classroom