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The path of the pedagogue

The path of the pedagogue

posted Friday 6th June 2014 by Gill Robins
 
In his letter to the Galatians, the apostle Paul wrote that ‘the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ’ (Galatians 3:24).  In fact, he personified the law by describing is as our pedagogue which leads us to Christ, and it is picture language which Paul’s contemporary readers would have well understood.
 
Our modern word ‘pedagogy’ is defined as ‘the art and science of education’. But this isn’t where the word started its life. In Greek, it derived from paido, the word for boy, and agogos, the word for leader, so a pedagogue was someone who led a child. This is the sense in which Paul uses the word.
 
In the Roman culture, the role of pedagogue was assigned to a slave. His job was to take complete responsibility for the child from the age of seven, teaching him to read and laying foundations for later learning. From the age of seven, academic learning was managed by the grammaticus, but the pedagogue remained with the child until the age of 16, leading his master’s child to school, supervising, disciplining  and training. He carried a ferula, or master’s rod, as a sign of his authority and he was there, 24/7, to protect and care. Think of it as a form of personalised learning.
 
What are the implications of this for us as teachers? The key is contained in the phrase ‘leading his master’s child’. Today we are both pedagogue and 
grammaticus, and for 30 pupils at a time, not just one. But we still, as Christians, are charged with leading our master’s children. Each student whom we teach is made in the image of God and we are entrusted, just for a short time, as each student’s pedagogue. 
 
The pedagogue must have been a much trusted slave, to be given the care of his master’s child. At the end of the 16 years, the pedagogue was charged with returning to his master an upright citizen who was a credit to Rome and a reflection not of the pedagogue’s values, but those of his master. And it is the same for us as Christian teachers. We, too, are charged with reflecting God’s values in our teaching, in the hope of returning students to our Father who honour God and who are citizens not just of our country, but also of his kingdom.
 
In what ways are we reflecting our master’s values through our teaching?
 
Gill Robins
 

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