Teaching Like the Master

Today a teacher received a great honor: Kim Slyman was named “Teacher of the Month” by KLTY. Having hired this teacher at a school I started and served at as Head of School for over eight years, it was a joy to watch her receive the news.

Today a teacher received a great honor: Kim Slyman was named “Teacher of the Month” by KLTY. Having hired this teacher at a school I started and served at as Head of School for over eight years, it was a joy to watch her receive the news.

Mrs. Kim Slyman is a treasure and completely deserving of this award. Her classroom is an oasis of love, an ocean of in-depth, multi-sensory learning, and a profound place of prayer.  She speaks softly, maintains an orderly classroom, believes every child can succeed as she prays over each one daily, and looks to Jesus for her ultimate lesson plans.

To share just one example of her treasured teaching techniques, as the children line up or transition from one activity to the next, she will call out the beginning of a verse and the class will "chime in" to complete the verse. It brings the class together, calms them down, and easily brings the kids back "on task".  If the students are in the hallway and getting a little noisy, instead of raising her voice to get them to quiet down, she'll simply begin a Bible verse, they all join in, and she has brought the class to control in a positive way.

One of the first books I wrote was Becoming a Treasured Teacher; later another, Touching Hearts and Changing Lives, followed by Teaching with Heart. The common denominator of these books is that treasured teachers are those who teach to transform lives and change hearts—to make an eternal difference with their students. In other words, treasured teachers seek to teach like the Master teacher, Jesus.

While some of my books may be out of print, God’s Word is timeless and never out of print. To learn about the teaching style of Jesus, we go to God’s Word.

Jesus is the Master Teacher, and we can learn so much from studying the life and teaching of Christ.  In the Gospels, the words “Jesus taught” appear 45 times, and Jesus is referred to as “teacher” 46 times. Whether you are a Bible teacher at a seminary, parent of teenagers, a teacher of pre-schoolers, or a grandparent, you can learn from the example set by Jesus.

We can learn from Jesus’ characteristics as the Master Teacher and incorporate them into our own lives so that we can become better examples ourselves. This is the ultimate paradigm as we seek to reach those God has intentionally placed in our lives who look to us for guidance, whether they realize it or not.

Jesus came from God, and as such He was called and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  As John 7:16-17 says, “My teaching is not my own.  It comes from him who sent me.  If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” 

Jesus prayed daily, and He specifically prayed for those he taught: “I pray for them.  I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours” (John 17:9)  Jesus turned to prayer, knowing that those who crossed His path were put there for a reason and purpose by His Father.

Jesus loved the children, and He never turned them away but took joy in having them come to Him willingly and enthusiastically.  He demonstrated His love and care for them, and He recognized that they possessed something pure and good in their humility: “‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me’” (Matthew 18:2-5).

Jesus employed variety and creativity in His teaching methods.  He told stories, lectured, led discussions, asked questions, used life situations, and met one-on-one with people in order to best reach and teach everyone.  He is my ultimate example for teaching with variety, creativity, and learning styles in mind. The gospels abound with the vast range of His teaching methods.

Jesus utilized teachable moments.  He found unique opportunities to teach that others may have missed, and He did not let teachable moments slip away when they presented themselves to Him.  As seen in his encounter with the woman at the well, Jesus’ teaching was timely as well as timeless. (John 4:1-26)

More than anything, Jesus believed in what He was teaching.  Everything He did or said came from His foundation in God’s Word and God’s message to all people.  His life modeled what he taught, as He truly walked the walked unlike any figure in history before or after Him.  And He called us to do the same: “‘Come, followe me, and I will make you fishers of men’” (Mark 1:17). 

This means that we cannot simply sit back or give up, thinking that Jesus did it better than I can, so why try. Our calling is the same as His: to teach and reach those who come across our path, whether family or friends, students or colleagues, young or old, so that the Holy Spirit can begin transforming their lives from within.