25 Apr Lighting The Candles: A Classical Teacher’s Relational Work
We love having people over at the Helms’ House. The first thing we did when we bought our fixer upper was to knock a wall out to make enough space for friends to gather in our living room. Several years later, we’ve nearly perfected our “people coming over” routine. First we spend time picking up clutter, scrubbing surfaces, and generally making it look like three little children do not live there. Then when everything is finished (and everything that didn’t get finished is stuffed in a closet) one of us says: “OK, should I light the candles?” It’s the very last thing we do, and in our house it has come to signify that we are officially “ready” for company to arrive. To this day, any time our children see candles burning at home, they ask who’s coming over.
Dinner and a Conversation: Augustine’s “Edwards Colloquium”
It was no different earlier this semester, then, when we had the joy of hosting the high school students along with Dr. Green and Dr. Drown for our Edwards Colloquium. Edwards Colloquium is named after Jonathan Edwards, who was perhaps America’s first theologian and arguably one of its finest. This event is an opportunity for Augustine high school students to meet twice per year in homes for dinner and conversation about a seminal writing that has implications for practical Christian living. This year, our ninth through twelfth grade students read and discussed John Calvin’s Golden Booklet On the True Christian Life.
As I sat in my living room surrounded by my students, I felt an equal sense of oddity: this is so strange (i.e. teenagers choosing to spend their evening with their teachers discussing a 16th century devotional book) balanced with an equal sense of pride: this is good.
As I sat in my living room surrounded by my students, I felt an equal sense of oddity: this is so strange (i.e. teenagers choosing to spend their evening with their teachers discussing a 16th century devotional book), balanced with an equal sense of pride: this is good. This is meaningful, and it is what we mean when we say that our school is teaching our students to pursue “the good, the true, and the beautiful.” This initiative is just one more avenue by which Augustine School is seeking to make real investment in the lives of our students.
Instruction in the good, the true, and the beautiful is incorporated into every part of Augustine School. Each day our teachers endeavor to see our students as “whole persons”—mind, body and soul, bearing the image of God—who need instruction in mathematics, grammar, art, and latin but also in kindness, perseverance, compassion, and wisdom. These latter lessons are certainly not left out of the classroom, but at Augustine School, they are very often learned on an extended class nature walk, the soccer field sidelines, during a hall talk, over an open lunch box or hot cup of tea. These lessons that are “learned along the way” extend the role of a teacher who not only wants to communicate life skills to his or her students, but is also willing to show students how to live.
Within our Augustine faculty we have horticulturalists, world travelers, non-profit advocates, grandmothers, side-business owners, musicians and performers, pastors, authors, and artists. In addition to teaching your children, these people are living full lives with meaningful interest and endeavors. Whether Augustine teachers are making room in their laps for a little one, space in their schedule to support a student-led initiative, or creating memories traveling the world together (literally!), our teachers are deeply committed to your children both in and outside of the classroom.
Caring For Students and Cultivating Virtue
According to Common Sense Media, the average teenager spends nearly nine hours a day consuming media such as TV, online music or video, social media, and more. In this context, initiatives like Edwards Colloquium does far more than putting a good book in front of our students. It actually models for them an evening well spent: friends gathered around a dinner table, carrying on light-hearted conversation, and a fireside chat over a good book with their peers and teachers.
In this context [of a culture of excessive media consumption], initiatives like Edwards Colloquium does far more than putting a good book in front of our students. It actually models for them an evening well spent: friends gathered around a dinner table, carrying on light-hearted conversation, and a fireside chat over a good book with their peers and teachers.
What I was reminded of that night and what I hope to here remind you, the Augustine School community, is that this type of school culture where teachers are not only thinking about how their students will process their next lesson—but also how they will live their lives—is rare. And it is profound. It’s the type of work that can’t be quantified or adequately represented on a page. It is a work that endeavors to ignite thought and passion in the minds and hearts of even our youngest students, who will hopefully do the same for generations to come.
We pray that one by one, our students will develop love for the good, the true, and the beautiful in all of life and pass that on to the person beside and behind them. I’m thankful to stand in the back of a long line of Augustine teachers doing just that: opening a door, taking a walk, lingering for a conversation, and maybe even lighting a few candles.
By Abby Helms, K-12 Art Teacher & Augustine School Marketing Director