Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Calling of the Teacher

David Lyle Jeffrey, "The Calling of the Teacher and the Place of Community," in Gladly Learn, Gladly Teach : Living Out One's Calling in the Twenty-First Century Academy, ed. John Marson Dunaway. (Macon, Ga. : Mercer University Press, 2005), 95-111.

Jeffrey distinguishes between two callings in the Christian life. One is a general calling as a Christian and the other one is a call to a specific vocation. Jeffrey writes, "The first call is universal in the sense that it is experienced by all who profess faith; the second is often highly specific and usually related to what in the secular sense we have lately come to think of as career, or profession" (95). A chief concern of Jeffrey is how individual callings can go against the common good. Hence the title, "The Calling of the Teacher and the Place of the Community." The author seeks to show in this essay how individual calling and the community can be joined together.

Jeffrey doesn't think vocation is "necessarily co-incident with discovering our natural aptitudes or confirming our natural pleasures. He shows how he is naturally an introvert which goes against his public role as a teacher.

Jeffrey thinks that the role of the Christian or the calling of a teacher cannot "be lived out" as an "individualist." He believes the call to teach is a call to "service." Both callings are a call out of self to a relationship with others.

The author believes that a person will need certain characteristics to follow a calling in the academy. He would need to have to have some abilities in public speaking. He would need to have the requisite academic training. Lastly, there would need to be a "genuinely positive response to an invitation to life-long learning. For such ongoing learning to occur, community is indispensable" (101).

Robert Frost wrote about combining one's daily work with calling:
      My object in living is to unite
      My avocation and my vocation
      As my two eyes make me one in sight.
      Only where love and need are one,
      And the work is play for mortal stakes,
      Is the deed ever really done
      For Heaven's and the future's sake.
      (Robert Frost, "Two Tramps in Mud Time," The Complete Poems of Robert Frost.

Jeffrey believes a calling to "a special vocation for any Christian ought to be considered a mixed life, a consecration of ordinary work such that it becomes a sacrifice of praise, an act of worship" (108). In this idea work can be an act of worship. One is reminded of the work and prayer view of the medieval monastery. The author also thinks that the work of all the members of the body of Christ is joined as one offering to God. Jeffrey notes, "At the personal level this offering up begins, for Paul, with an intellectual transformation, renewing of the mind (roman 12:2). It requires self-restraint, notably recognition that each of us is given but a part of what is necessary to the health of the whole body, evident intellectuals included (3-8)" (108-109). Jeffrey states that teaching and learning are among the gifts given to members of the church. These members "are called to put their vocation to learning to use . . . for the benefit of others" (109). The author argues that our "affections must be ordered towards love of the common good rather than toward our own profits" (109). In other words, we have been given gifts to benefit others. Though Christians "may respond to an individual call," this not not mean the call has an "individualistic" end.

The author sees the church acting as members of the body of Christ. Each member has his particular gifts and he uses these gifts to build up the church. One can learn from "witnesses from the body of the Christ from the past," but also from current members. Jeffrey states, "I have discovered that perhaps one of the most enriching privileges of the academic life is the opportunity to play a part in a vital, ongoing fellowship of scholars from many disciplines, in friendship and often spirited dialogue and debate to have my own categories of understanding as well as my repertoire of intellectual resources challenged, refined and expanded again and again" (110).

Jeffrey has shown in this essay how the calling of a teacher can be fruitfully joined to community. He has also shown how calling sanctifies our work. Ordinary work can be a divine calling. Our work can be a vehicle to worship God. In addition, there must be a place of community where teachers and learners can learn form each other. There must be an open atmosphere where questions and opposing ideas may be voiced and addressed civilly.

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