It’s been a good season for reading lately as I have spent a significant amount of hours on planes! As I talk to people in my work I find that I have been mentioning a couple of books that I have really appreciated. I will share one here and one in my next blog post.
Prior to doing a two day workshop at Sioux Center Christian this past summer, I was delighted to learn of Alan Bandstra’s book, Beyond Control: Heart-Centered Classroom Climate and Discipline. Alan is a grade six teacher at Sioux Center Christian in Sioux Center, Iowa and he says that while he started out to share what he had learned about classroom discipline and management, his book ultimately is about classroom climate as the context for encouraging not only proper behavior, but a true change of heart in a student. What I love about his book is that it is written straight from his heart and shows deep respect for students as image bearers, seeing them as created in God’s image.
Instead of a mechanistic, behaviorist approach which only deals with the symptoms of the wrong behavior, Alan suggests that love and restoration are the keys to true change. I love how his approach mirrors that of Jesus Christ as demonstrated by his statement: “Heart-centered teachers become living sacrifices when they absorb the wrong that they receive from students, then offer back the thing those students need instead of what they deserve. Bandstra suggests that it is through the building of relationships and connections, that “teachers learn to see students as ‘originals’, masterfully crafted by God.” Furthermore, the teacher needs to rely on God’s grace daily, both for forgiving one’s own mistakes and also to forgive and mend relationships with students.
I think that every new teacher should receive a copy of this book! A temptation of new, frightened, and insecure teachers is to rely on heavy behavioristic control mechanisms that don’t really get to the root of the problem – this book offers a strong biblical perspective and practical alternative. It is an outstanding example of connecting what we profess to believe as Christian teachers (whether in Christian or public schools) with our daily practice – in being Christ to our students and bringing out the very best in them.