A letter to my students

Dear students,

I know I moan at you now and then, get a bit exasperated when you do not perform to your potential and am sometimes tired at the end a day with you (though never tired of you). But you should know that, as well as the occasional headache, you give a lot to me.

I fulfil my calling through you and come alive in working with you, you modify my thinking in the act of learning together. I have known moments of joy with you in the classroom and the tutorial. You can and do set me an example in many ways by your lives. And you renew me as you require answers of me to clear fundamental questions after a lifetime of making things more and more complicated in my head.

But don’t expect too much from me. Someone recently described himself as a bundle of weaknesses held together by grace. There is a big truth in that. I will make mistakes and show weaknesses at times. You should not be surprised, and maybe you can be encouraged by that as much as by my strengths.

However, I am more to you than that. I have a large fund of knowledge to pass on, skills I can help you acquire in academics and ministry. You will be asked by the seminary or college to grow as an integrated person, formed academically, spiritually and ministerially and I can provide an example (very inadequate though that will be) of what it could look like in a life seeking to please and serve God.

And I am more than an “expert” who tells you how to pass exams. You see, I have sat where you sit, I have struggled with Greek, laughed in the common room, tried to play the guitar (and in my case, failed), fallen in love, struggled with prayer, worked on through years of ministry in different places, rejoiced and worried, been thankful. From all that, I can pass on wisdom learnt, good attitudes acquired, a knowledge of the love of God and care of God in my life over plenty of years.

Education is not a machine where you put the fee money in a slot at the top, press all the right buttons and eventually the diploma comes out of a slot at the bottom. It is fundamentally an encounter with people who, while flawed, are worth knowing. They may be dead hundreds of years but live on in the story of their life and in their works. Or they may be those you encounter in the classroom, tutorial and around the coffee machine at college.

Sometimes God comes to us through his Word, sometimes through his Spirit, sometimes through circumstances and sometimes through people., I started this little piece by saying that my calling is fulfilled in you. It would be the best fulfilment of my calling that God comes to you through me.

God bless,

Your teacher

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7 Comments on “A letter to my students”

  1. edithvilamajo Says:

    Very moved by this. Thanks Graham!

    Edith

    Edith Vilamajo edithvilamajo@gmail.com

    >

  2. Paul Clark Says:

    Thanks, Graham, for this reminder of theological education, as the encounter of people, in community, around the Word, mediated by the Spirit… flawed people learning to live in a community of grace, learning to handle God’s Word, under the presence and power of the Spirit… all for the Glory of God, and the Gospel of Christ.
    Always an encouragement in our craft of educators.
    Paul C.

  3. Cris Ile Says:

    This article is really special, Graham, as your warm heart and wisdom come through to us! You’ve been to me and to so many others not only a professor, but an inspiration, a friend, a spiritual father. Thank you!!

  4. perryshaw Says:

    Another excellent reminder that we do not “teach content” but we “teach real people”, and that our own authenticity is what gives meaning to the teaching-learning dynamic – in any field but particularly in the field of theological education. Thanks Graham. [Great to see you in Belfast this past week. 🙂 ]

  5. PatrickM Says:

    Wise and insightful into how learning works at multiple levels with relationship at its heart – thanks Graham. Great to see you briefly last week. I am reblogging this (with proper acknowledgement of course!)


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