More Than a Pious Wish: Living into the Story

It is nothing but a pious wish and a grossly unwarranted hope that students trained to be passive and non-creative in school will suddenly, upon graduation, actively contribute to the formation of Christian culture. —Nicholas Wolterstorff

Every parent and high school teacher prays that the years spent engaging in Christian education will have a lasting impact on the way their children and students serve the Lord. We want our students to see God’s story in the content they learn, interactions they have, and activities in which they participate; but even more, our deep hope is that our students desire to engage in the world in powerful ways that demonstrate their love for God. We want them to live into God’s story as high schoolers and beyond.

Waking Up to God’s Beauty

Roberta’s art students are living into God’s story. During the last year in her drawing/painting and graphics classrooms, students wrestled with the questions, “What’s worth doing?” and “What is beauty?” As the semester progressed, their definitions of beauty changed. They found loveliness in aged, wrinkled faces at Byron Manor, where residents wore all their joy and sorrow on faces that have seen eighty, ninety, or even one hundred years. Roberta’s students were challenged to tell the story of beauty in their drawings, the story of the beauty and wisdom in the people they met.
Grounded in transformative and curricular learning objectives, Roberta designed a formational learning experience that invited, nurtured, and empowered her students to do real work to meet real needs of real people. Each student was instructed to create a portrait of a Byron Manor resident that conveyed an authentic physical representation of the person as well as the essence of his or her personality. No small task, this required vulnerability on the part of both the Byron Manor residents and the artists. As they sketched and drew, Roberta’s students engaged in conversations with their subjects, getting to know them on a personal and deeper level. Many of the residents were lonely, and some experienced dementia, but the respect and care with which the artists engaged and connected was a blessing.

After weeks of work, the portraits were ready for delivery and were hung in the hallways of Byron Manor for all to see. [This is only part of the article. Want to read more? Subscribe to the website by choosing "Register" from the menu above. It's free!]

Work Cited

Wolterstorff, N. (2002). Educating for Life: Reflections on Christian Teaching and Learning (Eds. Gloria Goris Stronks & Clarence Joldersma). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. p. 31.

Pat Kornelis is a professor of education at Dordt College, teaching graduate courses in teacher leadership, assessment practices, and advanced educational psychology. She also serves as a CACE fellow and school designer for TfT.

The following teachers are mentioned in this article:

Audra Faber teaches biology, anatomy and physiology, environmental science, and physical education at Pella Christian High School in Pella, Iowa. She is currently in her twentieth year of teaching.

Roberta VanHaitsma currently serves as the art department chair at South Christian High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She teaches art and graphic design courses.

Janie Van Dyke has been teaching English for thirty-four years. She currently teaches English at Unity Christian High School in Orange City, Iowa.