Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Passion of a Reformed Teacher

Some years ago I had the privilege of addressing the graduating class of Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers College. Now that our beloved teachers are a few weeks from teaching our children, I thought I'd republish the speech. 

The Passion of a Reformed Teacher

I would like to address the graduating students on the topic of "The Passion of a Reformed Teacher." I want to encourage you to be passionate Reformed teachers: passionately Reformed and passionate about teaching.

As a Reformed teacher, you must be passionate in five different directions. As a Reformed believer teaching in a Reformed school, you must have five great loves.

Love God

Your first love must be for God. You must be a woman, a man of God. You need to love God with every fibre of your being. As our Lord Jesus Christ taught us, the first great commandment is to love the LORD our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

If you love God you will be a praying person. When you are teaching, make sure you start every day with prayer. Thank God for the great privilege of teaching His covenant youth. Pray for your students. For your colleagues. For yourself. Pray that you will be a blessing to your students.

If you love God, you will obey Him. You will put Him first in your life.

If you love God, it will show. It will radiate from you, and your students will see and feel that. Let them see that you are a man, a woman of God. Someone who is passionate about God. Who loves God intensely and extensively.

Love the Word of God

Secondly, love the Word of God. Love the Bible, God's revelation. God's letter to us. If you love the Word of God, you will read it. Read it every day. Before you leave for school, read the Bible, even if it's only a few verses. A few verses of scripture to nourish you and sustain you throughout the day.

If you love the Word of God, it will control how you live. How you conduct yourself inside and outside the classroom. How you interact with your colleagues and with your students.

Be passionate about the Word of God. Weave it through the warp and woof of your life. This will radiate from you. You will be seen and known by your students as someone who loves God and His holy Word.

Love the Reformed confession

And then, love the Reformed confession. Be passionate about the Reformed confession. Do not ever be embarrassed about being Reformed.

The Reformed confession summarizes so well what the Bible teaches about God, man, and the world we live in.

a. The Reformed confession speaks about the transcendent God who is far above his creation; who has created all things and, in his providence, sustains them. But it also speaks about the immanent God who has come near to us in His Word, and in the fullness of time, in His Son Jesus Christ, and then even in the person of the Holy Spirit. Stay immersed in the Reformed confessions (the Belgic, the Heidelberg and the Canons) and you will find your mind focused on God who is both transcendent and immanent.

b. The Reformed confession speaks about man. It speaks about the original dignity of man—about how God created man in His own image. It speaks about how man fell into sin and under the wrath of God. About how depravity has crept into every part of man. It speaks about how God sets us free from sin by the blood of Christ and regenerates us by the Spirit of Christ.

If you love the Reformed confession and stay immersed in it, you will have a good view of man, also of the children in your classroom. Of what man was; of what man became; and of what man is called to be.

c. The Reformed confession speaks about the world we live in. God is the creator of all things. This world belongs to him. We are stewards. As his image we are to work with what he has given us in this world. God is also the Lord of world history. He is bringing the history of this world along, according to his sovereign and good plan, to its perfect conclusion. In the mean time, we are to work in the world, in history, as long as it is still day.

Love your Reformed confession. Be conscious of God as both transcendent and immanent. Be conscious of who we are as redeemed people. Be conscious of the world you live in and the movement of history. Then you will be a good teacher.

Love children

You must love children. If you do not love children, pick up your diploma tonight and find a job in a restaurant, on a construction site or a farm. Drive a truck; work at a dry cleaners; go back to school and study law; do anything but teach children.

If you want to teach children, you need to love children—unconditionally. If you love the children, they will know it. And they will love you back.

To love the children does not mean to be a big marshmallow and soft on them. No! Be strict with them. Run a tight ship with tight but fair discipline. I am sure your professors have spoken to you about the need for classroom management. I heard once that a novice teacher does well not to smile until after Christmas. Teaching is one of the most difficult professions there is. As I read somewhere: "Housework is a breeze. Cooking is a pleasant diversion. Putting up a retaining wall is a lark. But teaching is like climbing a mountain." You are undertaking a very demanding but most beautiful and delightful profession. One of the keys to being a good and successful teacher is love for the children. 

Uncompromising love: love God; love the Word, love the Reformed confession; love the children.

Love learning

You need, finally, to love to learn. A teacher needs first to be a student. You have all come out of years of post-secondary education. You are tired of being students. Well, I hate to break the news to you: If you want to be an effective teacher, you need to remain a student. You need to love learning.

Keep reading; keep studying; keep learning. As long as you keep studying you will remain fresh, energized, excited and exciting. Be passionate about learning new things. Keep learning new angles to the old things. Internalize what you learn and then be a medium for that knowledge to your students.

My friends, be a passionate Reformed teacher. Love learning. Love children. Love the Reformed confession. Love the Word of God. Love God.

Be passionate in these five directions. You will be an effective teacher; a good teacher; a teacher in whose classroom I would love to be.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Fixed election dates

Fixed elections dates? I'm not so such whether it's a great improvement. In 2007 a law was passed providing for fixed federal elections dates. I'm left wondering what the meaning of "dropping the writ" now means. It seems to have been relegated to a mere formality.

The fixed election date provision has pushed Canadian politics into near interminable election mode. We have already heard enough of mutual  trashing of each other's leaders, and the campaign has not even begun. I suppose most capital cities are fueled by gossip and rumor. Ottawa is no exception. All week long we have been subjected to the "news" that Mr. Harper might drop the writ on Sunday. Please, Mr. Harper, call the election already!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Appointing senators

Who appoints people to the Canadian senate? Many think the Prime Minister of the day appoints. This is not the case. The Canadian constitution is clear:
The Governor General shall from Time to Time, in the Queen's Name, by Instrument under the Great Seal of Canada, summon qualified Persons to the Senate; and, subject to the Provisions of this Act, every Person so summoned shall become and be a Member of the Senate and a Senator.
By convention, the Governor General appoints those whom the Prime Minister recommends. The Wikipedia page on the Prime Minister of Canada explains it well when it says:
As such, the prime minister, supported by the Office of the Prime Minister (PMO), controls the appointments of many key figures in Canada's system of governance, including the governor general, the Cabinet, justices of the Supreme Court, senators, heads of crown corporationsambassadors to foreign countries, the provincial lieutenant governors, and approximately 3,100 other positions.
Since last week we are now in a position where the Prime Minister has declared a moratorium on future senate appointments. Twenty-two of  the 105 seats are vacant, and it is the will of Mr. Harper that this number of vacancies should increase.

Mr. Harper wants to bring reform to the scandal-plagued senate, but the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) ruled that Ottawa cannot act alone to reform the senate, to limit terms, to appoint only elected senators ("Triple E Senate"), but must have the consent of seven provinces representing half the population of Canada to make any changes. Since Mr. Harper feels stymied by the SCC, he has declared his moratorium and has challenged the provinces to pick up the ball on senate reform, or it will be  death of attrition.

However, he seems to have forgotten that the appointment of senators is not within his constitutional powers to perform but within those of the Governor General as representative of the Queen. What should be done?

First we need to be clear on the constitutional fact that the senate is not to be allowed simply to die. The Governor General of the day, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, has the duty, according to the constitution, to make the government work, and part of that responsibility is the maintenance of a viable senate. If Mr. Harper will not recommend any people for Mr. Johnston to appoint, then Mr. Johnston, as the Queen's representative, has the obligation to act regardless. Surely he, upon good advice, can come up with the names of twenty-two noble Canadians to appoint as senators.

I do not hold this position because I am in favour of the present senate, which seems monstrously filled with people gleefully "entitled to their entitlements," but because people should perform the duties with which they are charged. The Governor General should not make himself complicit with Mr. Harper's hissy fit.