Here is the third and final installment of the transcript of our recent interview with Dr. Mark Eckel. This transcript is shortened here, but you can listen to the full interview at The Teacher’s Lounge.
Michael Arnold: Dr. Eckel, you have just an abundance of resources, I would say, that would help teachers continue to grow, continue to feed on biblical truths. And I just want to walk through some of those. You’ve already mentioned markeckel.com. I’d encourage people to go there, and sign up for your weekly email. You also mentioned Truth in Two. Tell us a little bit more about that initiative.
Dr. Mark Eckel: So Truth In Two is a video that comes out once a week. And it’s one idea about one aspect of life in two minutes from a biblical point of view. You can watch the video, listen, or you can read the text that actually comes with it every single week. I think that’s really helpful for teachers to get a basic understanding of how to think about any given thing, whatever it might be. For instance, right now I’m doing a brand new set that we’re going to be taping on Wednesday. And the very first one is going to be a pro-life emphasis for pro-life week.
The next aspect of life that I’ll interact with will be February, which is Black History Month. And so I will focus on the public intellectuals who have most influenced me and all of them happen to be African American. In March, I’m going to write about Condoleezza Rice who just happens to be African American, but also one of the great women leaders of this century. She has done great work for us, the United States of America, and throughout the world.
I will interact with a pro-life perspective. And, just as an aside, I would say that the two things I would argue for in the public square always will be pro-life and pro-freedom. Those are the two things that really matter to me the most about expressing myself vociferously, forcefully in the public arena because if we lose freedom of speech, for instance, we have pretty much lost this country, just generically speaking.
March is Women’s History month, so I want to make sure that I focus on what would be important in women’s history. Not every single topic during March will hit that, but I’m cognizant of that. In April we have a focus on the resurrection, so there will be an emphasis on that. I also invest in biblical doctrine in each one of these teachings that I do. Biblical passages come up from time to time, but all of them are thought about from a decidedly Christian point of view.
If there’s another place that you would like to go to or point people to, I would suggest my personal website that I started back in 2008 that is called warpandwoof.org. I’m not using that since the middle of this last year because I’ve moved most everything to markeckel.com. But it is a repository of about 100 different essays and sermons and all different kinds of things. I would encourage people to use the search lines in both places, warpandwoof.org, as well as markeckel.com.
M.A.: So these two resources, from my perspective, would be a great way for an educator to say, I just need more information. I need additional thoughts and guidance on things that are coming up in everyday life as I seek to relate to my students and continue to point them to Truth and help them take ownership of the Truth that we’re trying to teach here at our school.
M.E.: I would say, too, that I’m all over social media, so you can find me on LinkedIn, you can find me on Twitter, you can find me on Facebook and Instagram. I use those for different purposes. For instance, this week I talk about how I’ve infuriated my students throughout the years. My point in infuriating my students is asking them questions, which is always the thing that draws the most consternation, but it is what helps them to own what it is they believe.
M.A.: Tell us about Comenius Institute.
M.E.: So the Comenius Institute was begun in 2014, and I started meeting with students on the campus of IUPUI here in Indianapolis in 2015. The Comenius Institute is educational, not-for-profit, aligned with the consortium of Christian Study Centers. Ideas change people and people change a culture. So Comenius is based on John Amos Comenius, the great Moravian pastor and educator who really was the one who taught me how to teach. I just read everything I could about Comenius and he was the one who gave me all different kinds of approaches to methodology that I didn’t know before.
M.A.: On the website, markeckel.com, is a series that you just delivered at a local church.
M.E.: The title of the series was Have We Lost Our Minds? and the series is based on basic biblical doctrine. We begin in the very first episode talking about how important our minds are and how Christians ought to think. The second episode has to do with who God is and why our response to Him is so important. And then we get into ethics and humanity and death and anticipation of the church, what the church’s role in society is, and those kinds of things. So those are 12 video lessons, which actually have curriculum that goes along with it.
I think it’s important for me to say that there are so many valuable video series for educators on that website. I’m pulling this up on my phone so I can actually talk about some of them. One of them has to do with a philosophy of Christian education, and I think it’s important for teachers to understand why they teach what they do. There’s a session on wisdom, how wisdom is important for us. Staking Our K.L.A.I.M. is a series that deals with the acronym which stands for knowledge, limitation, authority, interpretation, and mindset, and how all of us do this, and how we ought to think differently because of that particular perspective. There’s actually a video series on ethics and children’s books, which I think would be really interesting for anybody, frankly. What Shapes You? would be helpful for anybody to help young people to think about what’s shaping their thinking. The eight worldview questions are here in Making Sense of the World. And then there are all different kinds of series that deal with Biblical exposition, such as on Ecclesiastes or Proverbs. Lots of different perspectives there.
M.A.: And these are all accessible by just going to your website. No membership, no subscription.
M.E.: No subscription. Freely available.
M.A.: And I could tell our audience here at The Teacher’s Lounge that I’ve been enriched by these resources. It’s a wealth of information and I think you’ll learn not only more about Dr. Eckel and the way he thinks, which will help support the faith-learning content that you’ve adopted in your Curriculum Trak account, but also just find a wealth of information, with lots of references to pop culture. I know you’re a movie buff. What are you watching right now?
M.E.: I’m actually watching a series called “Chair Noble.” It shows the awfulness behind what happened in the old Soviet Union in 1986. But it’s done in dramatic fashion. It is really well done. I think it’s rated like 9.5 on IMDB. I would highly recommend it. It’s like watching Apollo 13 with Tom Hanks. You actually know the end of the story, but you don’t know all the details that went into what was going on behind the scenes. It will just rock your world to find out what was going on in the old Soviet Union in that way. Now, I will always add, please go to IMDB, which is the International Movie Database, to make sure that you know what’s coming. There will be some language, there will be some violence, and you’ll need to know those kinds of things. Whatever it is that you watch or whatever I might suggest, I kind of set that out there, just so that everybody knows what’s coming.
M.A.: And you lay out in your teaching the value that you find in movies to our culture and how they can be used. I think that’s powerful as well as a way to relate with people who are influenced by our culture.
Dr. Eckel, thank you so much for your time today. Thank you for the work that you do to support educators and learners of all stripes. What would be a parting encouragement or edification? What would you share with an educator today?
M.E.: I remember the very first time that I walked into a classroom of junior high students and I had absolutely no idea what I was walking into, what that whole culture was like. And it was the kind of situation where you find yourself going, I’m learning on the fly, literally flying by the seat of my pants.
And I would say that one of the things I learned immediately was that story is the most important way to communicate. We had a K to 12 chapel twice a week with 250 students from K to 12. Now, just imagine communicating to that group of people across that wide spectrum of ages. What I discovered was that the best way to communicate to everybody, everywhere, all the time is by telling stories. And I continue to stand by that.
I think it’s one of the most powerful ideas and concepts that I have learned from the outset of my teaching. I would also add that I learned this from scripture, that 40% of scripture is story. When we stop to consider how God has communicated His truths to us in narrative form, and that narrative and storytelling is very important, I think we should utilize that as a baseline understanding of how we should be communicating in the classroom. So I am always thinking about how stories interact with what it is I’m teaching and always connecting verbal with visual in the culture. These are things that God has established in His word to help us learn not only about Himself and His world, but in our case, how to teach.