Review: Those Who Can, Teach

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Moving from being a doctoral student to a classroom teacher is a major difference. The environments, atmosphere, and type of work are significantly different. One requires a lot of research on one subject. The other requires a lot of research on a broad subject. In fact, probably four subjects and classes rather than only one. Those Who Can, Teach, is aimed at doctoral-students-turned-classroom-teachers, but it is useful for all sorts who want to teach in the Christian class environment. The book is made up of eleven essays by different teachers from McMaster Divinity College, and is edited by Stanley Porter, President and Dean of New Testament.

Outline

There are 11 chapters here. In Chapter 1 Stanley Porter covers a philosophy of education. He looks at different educational system-structures (reconstructionism, humanism, etc) and the essential roles of the teacher (authority figure, best bud, coach, font of knowledge, etc). Chapter 2 deals with being aware of the learning styles of your students and knowing how to tailor your class in such a way where all of the students are engaged, along with course objectives, grading, syllabi, and examples from this list at the end of chapters 3-4.

Chapter 5 focuses on crafting your lesson to create the best learning environment for your students giving space for safe discussion.

Chapters 6-7 have language teachers discussing workbooks, language exercises, and practical hints to help students learn the languages.

Being focused toward Christian teachers in Christian scholastic settings, Chapter 8 show how to bring theological reflection into class, no matter the subject. It must be intentional. It won’t often simply ‘happen.’ Having the open atmosphere, the class would go through what Scripture says, what other Christians throughout history have thought, what our culture thinks about the issue, how we’ve seen the issue in our own experience, and then we end with reasoned logic on what God may be showing us.

Chapter 9 reminds us that after graduating doctoral studies and moving to the classroom, the teacher must remember that they are not teaching doctoral students. Teachers want to be effective and excellent, broad and specific, knowledgeable. Teaching is a way to continue research.

Chapter 10 is about the upside-down professor. Essentially, in our world of social “rulers,” the Christian professor (and teacher), the leader of the class, is to be counter-cultural by being a servant.

Chapter 11 tells us that we are to be intentional in our Christian walk, and our worldview shapes how we teach theology. We aim, based on James 3.17, for our students to feel safe enough to enter into deep discussions about theology and their beliefs.

The writers write independently of each other, as in there’s not a certain “theme” to the book besides helping the PhD student grow in teaching. However, since all of the writers are from McMaster, some of the essays have a “knowing-being-doing” theme to them: one is to “know” the concepts of a Christian worldview, “being” focuses on character formation, and “doing” has to do with the practices in the field of study. This is helpful as you can see that this is a running theme in the school, and different aspects of it come out in the individual essays.

The essays are quite practical, which is what doctoral student (and people like me) would need. I’ve mostly been reading the theoretical part of theology, but having a book like this which focuses mainly on the practical is immensely helpful. Having taught for two semesters on my own, I was surprised at how difficult it was to write up a syllabus, despite how many I’ve seen in my educational career. Having examples of course descriptions, syllabi, and a grading rubric is immensely helpful. Not to mention the bibliographies attached at the end of each chapter gives the reader more options for vocational teaching books, the theoretical and practical.

Lagniappe

Buy it on Amazon!

[Special thanks to James at Wipf & Stock for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]

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