1 Corinthians 3: 10 (NIV) “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds.”

“Such a classroom honors one of the most vital needs our students have: to be introduced to a world larger than their own experience and egos, a world that expands their personal boundaries and enlarges their sense of community.” (Palmer, 1998, p. 120)

“…human becoming takes place in the interaction between the person and his or her environment, between self and other, self and the world.” (Parks, 1998, p. 56)

“It (a cathedral) asks us what we might need to learn about ourselves, what kinds of persons we might need to become, in order to be capable of working at enduring things. It asks us about how we might need to grow if we are to build things that matter. If we were building a cathedral together, how then would we learn?” (Smith and Felch, 2016, p. 184)

I am a teacher of Senior Kindergarten students, 5 and 6 year olds who are only just beginning their very long stint in the education system. I see my students as unfinished cathedrals, beautiful as they are, but unfinished. This reference to cathedrals is from Teaching and Christian Imagination, a book written by David Smith and Susan Felch. They ask the reader to begin seeing their students as cathedrals, beautiful pieces of work that are under construction. As elementary school teachers, we get the amazing privilege of helping to pour the foundation of these “cathedrals.” We pour into our students academically, socially, and spiritually, helping to build strong foundations in Christ.

In Senior Kindergarten as well as other elementary grade levels, students are invited into a classroom where community is encouraged. Students learn what it looks like to be a part of a community by both giving and receiving, and they are given opportunities to put responsive classroom and restorative justice practices into action. They are becoming human, interacting ‘between self and their environment, self and other.’ As we do real work, for real people to meet a real need (Teaching for Transformation), they are ‘interacting between self and the world.’ Perhaps they are becoming at home in their classroom where they are safe to explore, try, fail, interact, share, give, receive, love, be loved…be in community. The foundation of who our students are, both individually and as a classroom community becomes a stronger and more beautiful part of the cathedral that they are.

As an educator who is trying to allow “Teaching for Transformation” (TfT) to shape my pedagogy and my day-to-day in the classroom, the reason why I teach has become clear. Developing my deep hope for my students and creating a storyline and storyboard (all TfT frameworks) has helped me to become more intentional about showing my students how much they are loved by God and guiding them to understand that they are a part of God’s big story right now—not at the top of completed cathedral, but perhaps in the foundational bricks and ground floor.

The Sagrada Familia is an unfinished cathedral in Spain. Construction on this cathedral began in 1882, over 140 years ago. The original builders of this cathedral have long since passed and generations of other builders have continued the work. Vision was passed from generation to generation, as well as building skills, a strong sense of collaboration, perseverance and labor.

If we as individual classroom teachers begin to see all students as cathedrals under construction, how might that perspective begin to impact the way we teach, the way we collaborate, and the way we support each other in our calling as “expert builders”?

Foundational work can be hard. It takes perseverance, discernment, and grit. It may require frequent referral to the blueprints and true collaboration with the whole building crew. Begin to imagine your students as cathedrals, and see the beautiful work that they already are in Christ. As you pour into your students each day , remember that God is the master designer, the architect, and He has called you to be the builder. Keep in mind students are not finished products, but are still under construction. May we, as Christian educators, count ourselves blessed beyond measure that we have the privilege to help build the foundations of so many cathedrals.

Information regarding the Sagrada Familia was taken from Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sagrada_Fam%C3%ADlia

Photo by Zhiyuan Sun on Unsplash

Stacy Kok is a Senior Kindergarten teacher and Teaching for Transformation early adopter at Cairn Christian School in Stoney Creek, Ontario. Stacy is originally from Tennessee, USA and moved to Ontario, Canada in 1999, after teaching at a missionary school in Indonesia. While teaching in Indonesia, Stacy met her future husband who is originally from Grimsby, Ontario. Both Stacy and her husband spent a total of 5 years teaching in Indonesia before moving to Toronto. Stacy took time away from classroom teaching and devoted her time and energy to their 4 children. Seven years ago, Stacy returned to the classroom after serving 4 years on staff at her church as the Children’s Ministry Coordinator. Over the past 7 years, Stacy has had her teaching degree from Tennessee transferred to the OTC and has also received her Christian School Teacher’s Certificate. Stacy is currently enrolled as a part-time student with the Institute of Christian Studies in the Master of Arts (Philosophy) in Educational Leadership.