Doing School After the Word Became Flesh

December 5, 2018 | Craig Doerksen

Note: see below for opportunities to learn more about Waterloo

Many years ago a dear friend told me about a Christmas season tradition—to read Athanasius’ On the Incarnation as an Advent devotional. His tradition hasn’t replaced mine of using this excellent digital Advent devotional from BIOLA that draws on art, music, poetry and scripture to prepare for the celebration of Christmas (it helps that it shows up in my inbox on my phone each morning—it really is excellent!). But, it has led me to reread it every few years, and doing so has never let me down.

Learning is a process of fits and starts, and I am surprised, but should not be, when I reread it and discover it has more to teach me. And so, rereading it as we launch Waterloo School, I am struck anew at how important the incarnation is to education: if we accept that the Word became flesh, school will be different.

Waterloo School is grounded in a few convictions, born of experience and research:

1. Students learn best by doing things.

2. Students learn best by experiencing the world as it is in the concrete (often messy and broken) particulars of where they live.

3. Students’ learning should lead them to discover how they can create value in unique and valuable ways out of their strengths and interests.

4. Students learn best in healthy relationships, rooted in joy and trust.

These convictions are in contrast to our broader culture of school: passive listening in a factory-like schedule in a classroom isolated from real experience in order to perform on abstract exams ‘knowledge’ that most students promptly forget.

How does this relate to the incarnation?

When God became a baby, abstract truth became material, personal, and knowable. (And it declared that Truth is also seeking us!). Though improbable that what is true and eternal became a person in a single place and time in history, it did! God showed us how truth will be discovered—by meeting it in person.

Ideas by themselves, presentable on a test or in a discussion in a classroom, may be true, but often cannot be understood, appreciated, loved, (or not) by students who have not experienced those ideas ‘in the flesh.’ Teachers see this over and over: an economic idea, a scientific theory, a fact in history—the abstract understanding isn’t real knowledge. These things have real, often lasting effects on people, and making those connections—the connections between the abstract truth and the very concrete, personal truth of lived experience and reality. To discover that—that is learning.

Encounters with truth can only happen ‘in person,’ in relationships—student-with-student, student-with-teacher, student-with-others. (Reading Jesus’ encounter with Pilate in light of this reveals how much Pilate was trying to keep the inquiry about Jesus impersonal, and how hard Jesus made it for him to do so.) Doing school after the Word became flesh means a school of action, experience, and engagement.

And as we do so, Athanasius writes, we will discover truth, everywhere: “The Self-revealing of the Word is in every dimension—above, in creation; below, in the Incarnation; in the depths, in Hades; in the breadth, throughout the world. All things have been filled with the knowledge of God.”

Spread the word! We have three more information meetings scheduled in January.

Wednesday, January 9 @ 7:30 pm – Circle C: 7513 Harlow Drive, Austin 78739

Wednesday, January 16 @ 7:30 pm – Barton Creek: 7505 Loasa Cove, Austin, 78735

Wednesday, January 23 @ 7:30 pm – Circle C: 7513 Harlow Drive, Austin 78739

And, learn by doing, right? We have three ‘Experience Waterloo’ events scheduled for prospective students. Each one will be led by Waterloo teachers, focusing on learning a different subject, ‘the Waterloo way’—hands-on, experiential, in relationships, in the city. Come to all three! Times and details to come.

Monday, January 14th – Humanities and the Arts

Monday, January 21st – History and MLK

Monday, January 28th – Science

Craig Doerksen

Craig Doerksen

Prior to becoming the director of Waterloo School, Craig provided leadership for a number of prominent institutions, including Regents School of Austin; the Bluetower Arts Foundation in Eugene, OR; and Trinity School in Raleigh, NC. Craig holds a master’s degree in English from the University of Ireland and graduated from the University of Oregon with a bachelor’s degree in English.