1 Kings 6: 7a (NIV) “In building the temple, only blocks dressed at the quarry were used…”

1 Peter 2: 4-5 (NIV) “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

“How might we imagine our vocation as teachers if we think of ourselves as midwives who “bring forth” rather than construct a building? What if we imagine ourselves not as the builders, let alone the architects, of our syllabi, lesson plans, and even students, but rather as living stones who, with our students, are being built up into a spiritual house?” (Smith and Felch, 2016, p. 154)

This past summer, I was able to engage in conversation with a friend of mine who is a certified midwife. Our conversation drifted towards the times that she has helped to deliver babies. The way she described those experiences was awe-inspiring. I am a mother of 4 children and understand full well the process of a natural birth; however, I have never helped to deliver another person’s baby. When my friend shared about those moments of childbirth, it was easy to see the passion and the wonderment that was felt each time she guided (brought forth) a baby into the world. A midwife uses her expertise and her hands to guide a baby into the world. The baby is already there. It is the midwife’s job to safely deliver it into the world.

We often compare the role of a teacher to that of a builder. When a builder builds, he/she knows what the completed project will be. The builder is following the designer’s blueprints and has purchased the necessary materials to construct the desired final product. There probably isn’t a lot of leeway for the builder to veer from the blueprints given and the builder is in control of the building process. The builder may be proud of his/her work, or it may just be another day on the job. (I’m thinking in particular of construction jobs that consist of cookie cutter homes – each one basically the same.)

Comparing the teacher to the builder in this metaphor is a very restrictive and quite frankly depressing comparison. In this regard, with the educator as builder, our pedagogy becomes more of a checklist–ensuring that we have the proper curriculum, the best classroom design and the perfect teaching protocols. With all this in place, we “build” throughout the school year with the end goal matching the blueprint design we had at the beginning of the year. The educator is in control and the students have received all the knowledge and expertise that we had to offer – cookie cutter students that have been “built”.

Perhaps instead, we choose to compare ourselves to midwives – the student is already there, already living, already made in the image of God – we are guiding that student into the world.

Smith and Felch, in their book Teaching and Christian Imagination (2016), challenge educators to think of themselves as midwives as they “bring forth” living stones. What then are “living stones?” 1 Kings 6 gives the reader a description of how Solomon’s temple was built. In verse 7, we are told that the stones used were chosen from the quarry. They were handpicked purposefully for the building of Solomon’s magnificent temple. These stones were laid in reference to the cornerstone that had already been laid. When we read 1 Corinthians 3:16, we are reminded that we are the temple of God and that His spirit dwells within us. Today, we are the New Testament church. In John 14:23, we are told that God loves us and will make His home among us. Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone and we are to live our lives with Him as our foundation and our guide. We are being “built into a spiritual house”. We are “living stones”. Each of us has been chosen to be a part of this beautiful spiritual house, where each stone is purposefully set in line with Jesus, the Cornerstone.

When we see ourselves and our students as these living stones, each chosen, each handpicked and being used as a part of the construction of a spiritual house in which Jesus is the Cornerstone and the Holy Spirit dwells, the way we approach curriculum, pedagogy and our students can’t help but be influenced. We as educators, are not “building” our students—they already are. It is our calling to “bring forth”, to guide them so that they enter God’s world through gentle hands – hands that show mercy, grace, instruction, discipline, forgiveness, joy, compassion, curiosity, perseverance, collaboration, community, and above all, love. Love for God, love for each other, and love for God’s world.

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.