Embodied Education: Practicing Love of God

embodied education

In a lecture some years ago, Sir Ken Robinson suggested that educators are people who live in their heads, and slightly to one side. The only reason they have bodies, he deadpanned, is to carry around these lopsided heads. An educator himself, Robinson was poking fun at the tendency in academic settings to develop intellectual capacities to the neglect of other capacities, resulting in a significant disconnect from real life.

Recognizing the limitations of the sort of education that focuses only on intellectual capacities, Faith Builders has kept a strong emphasis on doing and being, along with classroom learning. Hence our motto: “Head, Heart, and Hands.” We do have classes that inform the head. And we have mentoring that shapes the heart. Apprenticing is our attempt to train the hands. We believe students need more than book learning and class lectures to become worthy teachers and faithful servants. We believe that our responsibility as educators, in other words, extends beyond the classroom and into the practices of our students.

So we begin each academic year with a four-week Apprenticing Term. Teacher apprentices work beside experienced teachers in the week before FBCS starts. They help to set up for opening day. They participate in the back-to-school picnic. They get instruction and practice in lesson planning. The first three weeks of school, then, TAP students teach, while peers and experienced teachers observe, evaluate, and coach. After Apprenticing Term is completed and Fall Semester begins, students in the Teacher Apprenticing Program teach a required amount of classes through the school year.

While this “hands” part of training produces a good bit of sweat and sometimes tears, we believe it also provides realism and encourages humility. Students get first-hand experience along with valuable coaching as they practice the things they are learning. The apprenticing side of the Christian Ministries and General Studies tracks has been more challenging to implement. Because Faith Builders operates a Christian school, we can supervise all the apprenticing of TAP students. We do not operate other ministries, however, in which to submerge students in ministry apprenticing.

For some years our approach has been to expose ministry students to a variety of ministries, requiring them to serve in soup kitchens, food pantries, pregnancy centers, city ministries, rescue missions, prison ministries, kids clubs, and work projects for elderly, handicapped, and single people in our community. While this offers exposure to many kinds of ministry and often does put students out of their comfort zone, we have found it difficult to provide the robust evaluation and feedback that apprenticing deserves. This fall we are making changes in apprenticing our Christian Ministry and General Studies students. We will focus the apprenticing experience on three ministry skills: teaching the Bible, cross-cultural communication, and servanthood. We believe these skills are necessary wherever Christians serve. The training will include classes, teaching Sunday school, identifying and meeting specific needs, practicing conversations with strangers, and engaging in prison ministry.

Pray with us that not only the intellect but also the hands of God’s workers will be prepared to serve effectively in schools, in the church, and in ministries throughout the world.

John Coblentz
Campus Pastor and Instructor

Our track completion worksheets, listed here, provide an overview of the apprenticing requirements we require of our students.