The Three Components of Learning
Preparation is where the teacher gives her presentation form and shape for the purpose of giving the students stepping stones to follow through the teaching time. Hendricks says preparation â€œinvolves a delicate balance and relationship between content and communication, between facts and form, between what you teach and how you teach it.â€ Preparation is a step in the teaching process that can easily be overlooked. Whereas the faithful teacher is constantly seeking to do things better, ineffective teachers rely on their superior knowledge of lessons taught in the past. It will not be long, however, before the students see the lack of preparation for what it is. This lack of preparation can easily become a habit, that may have once started with â€œfilling a gapâ€ of time, or hour, or session and may become their modus operandi. Preparation is another way of saying, â€œI love you,â€ to the students. Time is oneâ€™s most precious possession that can be given away. Teachers who come well prepared are saying to their students, â€œYou are worth the time it took me to put this lesson together.â€ Time spent in the teaching environment is important, but time spent outside the classroom in preparation is priceless.
The love of learning begins with proper and thorough preparation. Before teacher and student engage in the learning endeavor, the teacher has to know the material to be taught. This means that the teacher is a conscientious student who continues to learn and teach at the same time. Teacherâ€™s lessons become stale when they return to their â€œbag of tricksâ€ too often. Howard Hendricks says, â€œThe Law of the Teacher, simply stated, is this: If you stop growing today, you stop teaching tomorrow.â€ One cannot impart what he does not know. The faithful teacher must constantly ask, â€œHow can I improve?â€ It is only the destiny of the students that is at stake. Philippians 3:13â€“14 says, â€œBrothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesusâ€ (NIV). Paul as an apostle did not feel like he had mastered teaching and equipping others; therefore, all teachers have a long way to go.
Beyond knowledge of their learning styles, or characteristics of various ages, the teacher should develop meaningful relationships with all her students. Since the Garden of Eden, God has desired a relationship with mankind. He came to Adam and Eve as a teacher but also as a friend. God taught the original couple by example and by knowing them intimately. In order to follow Godâ€™s example of a Master-teacher, one should have the same desire to know oneâ€™s students. This desire for a relationship continued throughout history culminating with Christâ€™s death on the cross. John 15:13â€“14 says, â€œGreater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friendsâ€ (NIV). To be a transformational teacher, a person must be willing to lay down their lives for the sake of their students and to invest themselves in the lives of others.
Jesus was the ultimate teacher because He was God in flesh (John 1:14). No where in the gospels is Jesus referred to as preacher, but over forty-eight times He is referred to as teacher. The times of walking in the cool of the day are now possible once more. It is the teacherâ€™s responsibility to show them the way to the garden so that they can meet with God on their own. Eldridge says, â€œTeaching from mouth to ear is very different from teaching heart-to-heart. If â€˜getting the lesson acrossâ€™ is the main goal, there is little need for relationship between teacher and student. But if transforming students toward Christâ€™s likeness is the goal, then a warm positive relationship is essential.â€ It is easy to impress from a distance, but it is only possible to impact up close. A teacher must keep in mind that Jesus always taught people not lessons. The emphasis of oneâ€™s times with students must be the students before them, not the words or lines of the curriculum. Jesus constantly sought to develop relationships with people, and His time spent with them greatly increased their ability to recall His teaching. They were drawn into the times of teaching because He showed them how they could immediately change their lives, take action, or think differently.
The average Sunday school teacher or other ministry leader will never have this effectiveness if the only time they see their students is the hour in class once a week. Jesus took His students with Him, and they encountered life together. Even in the brief encounter with the Samaritan woman in John 4, she goes from harlot to missionary hero because of Jesusâ€™ desiring to know her heart. He did not focus on her outward behavior, instead Jesus looked to her heart and showed her Godâ€™s love for her. When students know that their teachers love them, they will seek to be imitators of them, just as the woman at the well. One must not let the outward behavior keep one from discovering the heart underneath. This goes for well behaved children as well as the not do well behaved. It is most teachersâ€™ tendency to focus on one or the other.
Many times teachers develop false ways of evaluating teaching effectiveness. If the students are quiet and do not disrupt class, then many would feel they have been successful because the life change they are seeking is a quiet, still body. In opposition there is â€œthat kidâ€â€” the one who climbs the walls, pulls the girls hair, or is constantly wresting with others. His path can be easily followed by listening for the screams and looking for the damaged property. One may think he has failed with this student because of his energy level. Those that sit quietly and do nothing as children have been taught to sit and do nothing as adults. Whereas the wild abandonment of â€œthat kidâ€ can be refocused to wild abandonment for Christ, â€œthat childâ€ can set the world ablaze with the gospel, if loved by a faithful teacher. It is only in the construct of a meaningful relationship that a teacher can see if life changing instruction is taking place. In the preparation stage, the teacher should ask himself, â€œHow can I prepare the lesson in such a way that â€˜that kidâ€™ will understand as well as everyone else?â€ or â€œHow can I focus his attention on Christ?â€ This level of preparation takes time, prayer, and effort. Sadly, it is this extra step to make lessons meaningful to all that limits many teachers from becoming life-changing transformational teachers.
Gregory gives several suggestions that arise from his â€œLaw of the Teacher.â€ One would be to â€œprepare each lesson by fresh study.â€ It is only when the teacher has wrestled with the material and learned fresh insight that he can express a sense of excitement and importance to the topic. This â€œfresh studyâ€ also adds a layer of mastery to the material that she may not have previously had. This insight to the material also gives the teacher freedom in the classroom to observe students, guide distractions, or foresee any other teaching obstacles that develop in the teaching environment.
In the preparation of lessons based on his knowledge of students, the teacher should seek to move from what is known to what is unknown. Gregory describes this concept as â€œfind in the lesson its analogies to more familiar facts and principles.â€ He also warns that â€œcomplete mastery of a few things (or even one thing) is better than an ineffective smattering of many.â€ The teacher should also keep in mind that the Pharisees memorized the five books of Moses. They knew the material so well that they could easily find fault in others. Their religion was â€œsuperficial, external, and technical.â€ The goal for teachers is not to teach facts alone, but to use them to bring about life transformation. This has been referred to as the â€œso whatâ€ of the lesson. A person could say, â€œJesus walked on the water. So what? How does that apply to my life, my current crisis, or my devotional life to God?â€ Jesus defined a â€œwiseâ€ or â€œfoolishâ€ person not based on their knowledge but on the basis of what a person does with this knowledge (Matt 7:24â€“26). If a student leaves the classroom with no life change based on the teaching, then the teacher is sending them out as â€œfools.â€
Thorough preparation also aids in classroom management. Gregory says, â€œThe teacher who knows his lesson as he ought is at home in his recitation, and can watch the efforts of his class and direct with ease the trend of their thoughts.â€ If oneâ€™s eyes are on the students and not the curriculum, the teacher can address â€œissuesâ€ before they become a distraction.
 Hendricks, Teaching to Change Lives, 74.
 Ibid., 17.
 Eldridge, The Teaching Ministry of the Church, 33.
 Gregory, The Seven Laws of Teaching, 33.
 Eldridge, The Teaching Ministry of the Church, 35.
 Gregory, The Seven Laws of Teaching, 32.