“Take a look at the nose of the person sitting next to you.” Marlene LeFever, a master teacher with David C Cook, was instructing 1,100 Christian teachers in Mexico. “Now imagine what that nose would look like on your face!” The crowd erupted with laughter.
“We used to think God made all smart people’s minds the same. We were wrong. Minds are as different as noses.”
For the next several hours, teachers discovered how they could successfully teach children with different learning styles in Sunday school and other groups.
“We need to teach kids the way God made them, not the way we wish he had made them…and not the way we used to think he made them.”
LeFever explained to her large Mexican class of teachers that not every child learns by sitting quietly in a chair and listening to the teacher tell stories or lead a traditional Bible study. In fact, for most that isn’t the best way. Some children learn by talking. When the teacher makes them be quiet for long periods of time, their minds stop functioning at full capacity. Other children need to know that every week the teacher is prepared to tell them something new or come at the topic in a new way. Still other children want every class time to include activities where they can practice what they learned. Other students want class to give them an opportunity to be creative.
David C Cook is determined to show Christian leaders how to teach effectively. First, curriculum from Cook contains built-in teacher training. This means that a teacher is coached right at the place where he or she needs to know how to do something. The reason for an activity is explained in the curriculum right at the point the teacher will use it. For many, however, face-to-face or “nose-to-nose” training is more effective. So for over 40 years, Cook has also sent trainers around the world.
At a teacher training session in Mexico City, one man told LeFever,
“I’ve been teaching the Bible for most of my life. This is the first time I realized it could be fun and interesting. It’s not just a big textbook. I can’t wait for Sunday. My kids will never be the same.”
Marlene LeFever works in the Global Mission division of David C Cook that equips pastors, teachers and other Christian leaders for more effective ministry in more than 60 nations. In the past year, thousands have come to soak in her counsel in places ranging from the Middle East to Brazil. She is a world-recognized expert in learning styles. Her book, Learning Styles—Teaching Students the Way God Made Them, has been a standard textbook in Christian education classes for years.
In Mexico, LeFever divided her large audience into small groups of six teachers each. These groups became the setting for people to try different approaches for teaching children whose minds are as different as their noses.
“Children and teens need to know that there will be some time during your time together when the way they like to learn will be honored. This frees them up to do some of the activities that they may not be as good in.”
For example, a child who doesn’t like to memorize verses will be willing to try, because she knows that in a few minutes, she will have an opportunity to brainstorm some creative ways to put that verse into action.
In the photo, teachers are listening to the story about Thomas and how he doubted that Jesus was alive. The Bible reader stopped four times as he read the story.
I could hear people talking about what they thought Thomas was feeling. Each time, teachers drew Thomas’ facial expression for that point in the story. Some in the groups were confessing that they were more Thomas-like than they liked to admit. Others were talking about children who would love this activity.
Then they talked about what they had learned. In Monterey, Mexico, 58 groups of six were taught simultaneously in one large auditorium.
David C Cook’s Global Mission is committed to effective teacher training. It is not enough to simply produce a well-planned and designed curriculum like the J127 Orphan Initiative. In the end, a curriculum is only as effective as its teachers. Cook prays for the teachers, trains them and conducts seminars around the world.
LeFever smiled as she recalled the sessions in Mexico and recalled the responses she heard as they were parting.
“Some laughed with joy. Some cried with joy. I suspect almost everyone in that crowd of teachers felt sorry for any adult who hadn’t felt God called them to teach.”
Update: In 2018, David C Cook transferred oversight of the J127 clubs to an in-country partner which continues to shepherd and grow this program. By supporting David C Cook’s Life on Life curriculum, you will be helping support this program as well.