Letters to Lisa
Conversations with a Christian Teacher
John Van Dyk
Dordt College Press: Sioux Center, Iowa, 1997.
paperback, 210 pages.
Although this book is almost fifteen years old it remains fresh and relevant and is still in print. It is an excellent introduction to teaching Christianly. It should be compulsory reading for all teachers who are Christian and want to be Christian teachers.
The quote on the back page states that 'Teaching Christianly may well be the hardest job in the universe'. If that is the case there is a need for resources to help us do that. This book is a great place to start.
It is a series of e-mail and letter conversations between John Van Dyk and his daughter, Lisa - between a Christian college education professor and a Christian teacher. In it Lisa raises the kinds of questions that confront all of us at the chalkface (or should that now be interactive whiteboard face). In response we get the wisdom and insights of Van Dyk. The conversational format of the book means that it is highly accessible. This means the book is a great primer.
Issues covered in the 22 chapters include: what is teaching Christianly, learning objectives, academic excellence as a goal, the role of worksheets, should we be subject or student focussed, the role of questions, assessment, the role of competition, cooperative and collaborative learning, curriculum and classroom devotions.
The book will be of value to all teachers irrespective of the level they teach or where they teach.
I highly recommend the book.
Table of Contents
1. Teaching Christianly: what is it?
2. What learning objectives should I write in my lesson and unit plans?
3. How important is academic excellence as a goal of Christian teaching?
4. What is this discipleship that I should aim for?
5. Do I teach subjects or students?
6. Is there too much teacher-talk and note-taking in the classroom?
7. Should I get rid of worksheets?
8. Is there a Christian way to ask questions in the classroom?
9. How important is the atmosphere in my classroom?
10. How well should I get to know my students?
11. Are my assessment and grading practices compatible with teaching Christianly?
12. What about competition in my classroom?
13. Is cooperative learning a Christian strategy?
14. What if cooperative learning doesn't work?
15. How can I meet students' needs in my classroom?
16. When are students at risk in my classroom?
17. What are some key questions about curriculum?
18. What is a Christian perspective on curriculum?
19. What types of Christian perspectives will I encounter?
20. Can a Christian teach Christianly in a public school?
21. How important are classroom devotions?
22. Am I a professional Christian teacher?