Anabaptist Educators Speak Up!

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June 9, 2012

Now that I've finished my master's in Education and a certificate in Peacebuilding from a Mennonite university, I suppose I should know something about Anabaptist education. In truth, though, from my experience, studying, and research, Anabaptist education seems very similar to just "good" education. 

There is a lot of information on what it takes to be a "good" educator. There are numerous theories, methodologies, frameworks, principles, curriculum, instructional strategies, tricks, and tips. Many of these are helpful. When it comes down to it, though, most of the significant researchers talk about the role of an educator's values and character. Ultimately, we teach who we are. 
 
This means that teacher training is really about nurturing whole healthy people, who can reflect on their experiences and situations in reference to a set of values that are life-giving and nurturing to others. Of course, the tricks and tips are important too, but without the underlying values, these efforts remain only surface deep. Learners can sense this immediately.
 
Countless courses and workshops for teachers begin with asking participants to reflect on teachers who were influential in positive ways in their educational experience. While answers range as to what theories of education these model teachers had, the common point  seems to be the teachers' values which affirm and empower their students.
 
Anabaptist education, if it has any distinguishing features from other types of education, focuses on the development of these values rooted in a collective Christian identity as "a peace-building fellowship of Christ in the world."* The Anabaptist experience with the integration of Christian discipleship, community, and peacebuilding easily translates to the education realm. Educators with these values help to create space for people to learn and grow together - not just to become more successful in society's eyes, but to work for life-giving change in their spheres of influence.
 
I think Anabaptist educators have a lot to learn from researchers and educational theorists. Doing education as best as possible according to current knowledge is important. Yet, I think that Anabaptist educators also have something to offer that is much sought after in the field. Perhaps we can begin to speak up a bit more.
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