Christ in the Classroom

Every now and again, I reflect on teaching and the relevance of the methods used by Jesus. Even without the miracles and the content of the message, some of Jesus’ pedagogical principles continue to stand out. Here is my list.

Integrate the topic with your students’ lives. Jesus used many agricultural, marine, and even food analogies, but he also routinely incorporated other images from his interlocutors’ experience-from cleaning the house to dealing with tax collectors. Sometimes he incorporated their own words and questions, as when he used water to explain his mission to the woman at the well in Samaria. Teachers today would do well to tap into images and metaphors deriving from their students’ lives. Some of the most important of them come from the worlds of entertainment and sports-and the newest means of communication.

Reach out to students, especially those who are disenfranchised. Jesus lived under conditions similar to those of the people he wished to instruct. Even though he often taught in the temple, he distanced himself from the established leaders and teachers. He was more at home in the byways of Galilee, and resided with the common folk, eating the same food they ate. He was conscious that he had come to save sinners, social outcasts, and the poor. In contrast, most teachers today rarely interact with their students outside the classroom, let alone with students’ families. This lack of...

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About the Author

J. Paul Martin is the executive director of the Center for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University.