Strange as it may seem to the modern ear that is so familiar with the sound of children at high decibel levels, the very word "children" in the Greek language of the New Testament era suggest a more muted atmosphere. A common word for child was nepios - a word in two parts. The first part ("ne-") is a negative; the second part ("-pios") at root refers to speaking. So the word literally describes a child as "one not speaking". I'm sure there was lots of laughter and noise in a house full of children in biblical times, much as there is today. But the word must have reflected some ancient idea - a notion of the child as one who had no say and had nothing to say!
While the etymology of the word is nothing more than suggestive of an idea, the biblical view of a child that the word reflects has radical implications for what a classroom should be like. The one fundamental command that the Bible has for children is to obey. Not to have their say in every decision, but to follow instructions. The only glimpse that we have into the life of the young Jesus is of him sitting at the feet of his teachers, listening. Attentive, rather than the center of attention. He who was the very Word of God, at that stage of his life had nothing to say. He becomes our model child. In which case, the elementary school is primarily a place for listening.
Of course the time came when he had lots to say. The time came when his Father boomed from heaven, "This is my Son - listen to him!". What he had to say was now worth listening to and Jesus was no longer to be seen but not heard. All in good time. But it started with listening.
In an earlier blog we introduced "Pupils who can see". It's a book that explores what the Bible has to say about the child as a student. Are there principles from which we as parents and teachers can glean strategies to enable our children to become effective learners? The first chapter begins here with the idea that childhood is a time for listening rather than being full of things to say. That simple truth will set them up for a lifetime of learning.
Pupils who can see is now available in all e-book formats through a variety of outlets at $1.99.
To find it for Kindle at Amazon.com, click here.
To buy a copy for Kobo, click here.
To download it for iPads and iPhones, go to your account at the iTunes store and search for "Brian Watts pupils"