“The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts” (C. S. Lewis, Abolition of Man). One may not immediately make the connection between this quote and humility, or the virtue of humility. Neither did I upon first reading it. However, God, the great Orchestrator and Educator, has taken me on a whirlwind ride already this summer abounding in themes of humility, virtue, thirst, and water.
Since becoming involved in Challenge B, I have had the privilege of moving through the Challenge levels with the same group of students. We just finished Challenge I and the Lord opened the way for me to move to Challenge II with them. Knowing these students well and having just experienced Challenge II with my son, I had no anxieties about this with one exception…biology. I am not a “science person,” but I am a lifelong learner and willing to model this for them. That is what a tutor does, right? However, I believe God wanted me to move beyond reluctantly overcoming an aversion, to truly seeing His beauty and truth and the connections with biology and my faith.
It began in West End, NC, where I attended a three-day training for Challenge II among fellow tutors and lovers of classical education. As we contemplated big ideas, discussed how to converse with our students, and learned to assess in a way that blesses and glorifies God, I came away with a refreshed and fulfilled spirit ready to submit to God’s will and timing in my own home school as well as my Challenge class. Then came a trip to Leigh’s house where, with utter giddiness, I used the stick in the sand method to complete an algebra problem with a fellow director. Okay, so it was really seashell in the sand, but the metaphor was not lost. What followed was a restful dinner overlooking the water and a deep discussion about the road ahead for Classical Conversations. Wide-eyed and trying to soak up every word as Leigh, Marc Hays, and Matt Bianco spoke, I was completely distracted by the annoying sound of what turned out to be a frog (not surprising since we were on the water). It had made its way up to the deck and placed itself directly behind me to make its horrid sound. I was not seeing or hearing the beauty in this and I quickly thought of the fact that I would dissect a frog in the coming year. However, as I reflect, these few days were God’s foreshadowing to me. Frogs…hmmm…where else has God used frogs to get someone’s attention?
The next leg of this whirlwind ride came during my community’s hosting of our own Three-Day Parent Practicum. During our morning session, we contemplated whether virtue can be taught and we chewed on another C. S. Lewis quote: “thirst was made for water” (The Great Divorce). I was also tasked with facilitating a cohort of Challenge I directors and committed to paying forward the blessings I received at West End. As I prepared, God placed a theme of humility on my heart. I shared with the trainees “Reflections on Tutor Humility” by Amanda Butler as an extension of our Tutor Creed on day two. A lovely rabbit trail ensued as we spent much of our afternoon contemplating this. Now I see that my state of rest primed the pump (a metaphor I lovingly credit to my Challenge I tutor trainees) for a twofold benefit of that which I could pass on and that which I could further receive.
Finally, having trainings and practicums under my belt, I switched gears to my own personal summer learning plan, which always starts with a great book. My choice this year was Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis. I quickly highlighted the above quote in utter awe of Lewis’s metaphor. In desperate need of someone with which to contemplate this book, I was directed to a friend’s blog where someone posed the question of how to avoid smugness in classical education. Here is where it all came together. Maybe if we are truly irrigating deserts in our own home schools and in the lives of our other students, then true humility is the virtue that is modeled, taught, and produced. The fullness of knowledge we obtain through a classical education will create within us an awe of our Creator that brings us to our knees with a realization of all we still do not know and an unquenchable thirst for more. Thirst was made for water, but our Savior has given us an unlimited supply from which to drink. “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). As a final note, my parent meeting for the upcoming Challenge II year was held, where else, but by the water in humble fellowship with my families.