To restore in man the image of his Maker, to bring him back to the perfection in which he was created, to promote the development of body, mind, and soul, that the divine purpose in his creation might be realized–this was to be the work of redemption. This is the object of education, the great object of life. Ellen White, Education, p.16
Adventist education does not just measure success by academics, financial status, or corporate climbing. Adventist education sees each student as a child of God. Adventist education sees the value in each child and looks for the positives. There are times when student challenges seem insurmountable. Looking at things from a human perspective, teachers hit a brick wall and wonder how to unleash the learner inside the student.
What makes the difference in Adventist education? When we look at our students as children of God, it puts an immense value on them. I have moved around my empty classroom sitting in various seats and praying for the student who normally occupied that seat. I have asked God for patience, for understanding, for insights to how to reach that student. It provides an environment of unconditional love that provides for both firm boundaries and individuality.
Teachers still have high expectations. There are consequences for breaches of behaviour. Still, there is the understanding that we all make mistakes. There is the option of learning from where we go wrong and endeavouring to improve. But most of all we see in each student an individual for whom Christ died. Each student is a person of eternal value who needs the opportunity to respond to God’s grace.
There is one other factor that should make a difference for our students. As humans, we teachers recognize that we make mistakes. We need to take the time to listen and get all sides of the story. I recall supervising a Home Economics class where a student grabbed the cutting board from another student. I asked her to return it promptly, which she did. As I talked with her, however, it became clear that I had not heard the comment that she had responded to. I had made a mistake. I apologised and gave her back the cutting board. That night she told her mum that she really appreciated that a teacher had apologized to her. It was her first year in an Adventist school and the first time in her life a teacher had apologized to her.
Another student, Mary, came to our school without any Christian background at all. She made friends at school and experienced going to church for the very first time. She told me, “I have learnt about God here. I have seen this in the teachers and the way they treat me.” In Mary’s class was a student, Stephen, who had had leukaemia for five years. He died in March, and at his funeral were so many friends, many of whom had not been Christians when they came. Almost to a person, they had learned to love the God that Stephen loved and trusted, because he was such a powerful example of a Christian who trusted God regardless of the outcome. These students, to me, capture the difference an Adventist school can make for our children.
This article is the second in a series of ten articles on the unique characteristics of Adventist education. Another article in the series will be published every other Friday. To view all articles in this series, along with other articles by this author, click here: Articles by David McClintock.
- The Christian School as a Community of Grace, Don C Roy
- Research Report: The Impact of Adventist Schools on Students, Jerome Thayer
Note: Article written and posted in Australian English.