Lutheran Schools Week - Learning Together

"And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him." (Luke 2:39-40 ESV)

Like the boy Jesus, ILS students are growing physically but also in wisdom. Students (and their teachers alongside them) learn language, mathematics, history, and science. They are also learning the words of Scripture as Jesus did. We pray that that the all of our learning might be to the Glory of God and in service to our neighbor. 

Enjoy this post on Learning Together by ILS 4th grade teacher, Miss Leithart. 

Learn Together - Miss Leithart

Someone gave me one of those teachery gifts not too long ago: a small wooden block painted with the words “teachers who love teaching teach children to love learning.” While I was indeed a teacher at the time, I found some fault in the sentiment. True, I had and still love teaching, but I honestly think of myself in a position of learning and loving to learn. With this in mind, I must boast in my love for learning with and teaching the fourth grade at Immanuel. 

Fourth graders are expert memorizers. Since Junior Kindergarten, they have been learning how to memorize works such as poems, Bible verses, and hymns, so when they arrive in the fourth grade, their minds are wired to absorb words upon words upon words. Every other week, we memorize one of Aesop’s fables. Yes, the entire fable in just one week! To challenge myself and set an example ( although, I sometimes mix up words and am politely reminded ), I commit a fable to memory with them. We make it into a game that way. How much can we memorize in five or ten minutes? We then recite the fable altogether sometimes with added gestures and intonation to spice it up. In addition to fables, we continue memorizing excellent poetry. Most recently, we learned “In Flanders Fields,” by John McCrae while we were studying the Great War and “Advent” by Christina Rosetti during that time of the church year. One of my favorite memorizing activities is coming up. During Lent, we take time each week to eventually learn all of Isaiah 53. When I announce the feat to the class, they usually react in disbelief with something like “We’re going to memorize the entire chapter of a book of the Bible!” I reply with, “yes,” and we get to work internalizing the words of the prophet step by step. Committing beautiful words to memory not only exercises the mind in discipline and sheer mental effort, but it liberates the mind to recall that beauty in times of leisure or solitude. Memorized words never leave. 

Though fourth graders are able to memorize with ease and delight, they also seek to know more about that which they recite and repeat. Therefore, whenever we study a poem, fable, or speech of some sort, we always discuss the words and material. I might ask them why a particular adjective was chosen to modify a particular noun. We might question the symbolism behind Rossetti’s “cold earth” or why Walt Whitman called Abraham Lincoln his Captain. In this way, we come to an understanding through Socratic dialogue. They often will ask me a question that challenges me to respond with another question until they supply the answer. Naturally, as the teacher, I’ll guide the course, but I’m simultaneously learning about them and how they think, which deepens my contemplation of the material at hand. It’s really quite a journey. 

Thus far, I’ve mentioned how fourth graders memorize and discuss, which are all means of intake and thought, nevertheless, at this stage in education, they possess all they need to create their own great works. My favorite writing exercise is when students rewrite a fable in some way by replacing the characters with other animals or by altering the conflict of the plot and then creating a new resolution. Their work truly impresses me, and I find even more joy in their delight of their creation. They always enjoy reading their new fables aloud to their classmates, which allows us all to experience their happiness. 

I am indeed a teacher, and a happy one at that, but more so, I have become a learner alongside my students. What fascinates them inspires me. Learning together at Immanuel is one of the many blessings of this community.