Pentecost and the Teacher

The Rev Preston L. Peach, Methodist missionary educator for his entire service (1914-1949), had been a trained engineer before coming out East. As Principal of Anglo-Chinese School Singapore, Methodist Boys’ School Kuala Lumpur, Sentul and Penang, as well as Methodist Education Secretary, his vision and experience provide a fitting background for his observations about the uniqueness of the teaching profession.

‘JESUS is the greatest teacher who ever lived. None has equalled Him in the art of pedagogy. He never discussed pedagogy. He applied its laws in a most natural way with results that any teacher in these modern days would covet.

When we think of Pentecost and the Teacher we at once connect the teaching profession with religion and in so doing we raise unconsciously before our vision the Great Teacher. He stands in the midst of every situation where a teacher is dealing with the individual. He calls every teacher to be an evangelist, for he was the one true Evangelist-Teacher.

A Director of Education some years ago … was pondering over the fact that very often Mission Schools turn out better results than Government Schools. It seemed very strange that such should be the case, since Government Schools had at that time better teachers and were better equipped.

He answered his own query to one of our Principals by saying: “It is because your teachers take a personal interest in the pupil.”

He was correct. Personal interest means a religious interest and a religious interest springs from a fire within that is born of God. A teacher’s Power House has always been and ever will be his heart, not his head.

I know teachers … who have degrees but whose classrooms are a few degrees above freezing. I know other teachers who have no degrees but whose classrooms radiate happiness, character, work and progress.

Almost without exception, those who have had large influence in forming character and directing life towards its noblest ends have been persons who were mastered and dominated by this kindling conviction of an underlying spiritual conviction.

Pedagogy has been developed to a very high degree in these days; the technique of method is varied and elaborate. It can, however, never be a substitute for the spiritual element necessary in the character-forming process of education. To fashion the affections and the will into an earnest and loving desire to move in harmony with the laws of men and of science, this is something quite beyond pedagogical instruction.

Somewhere in the process of education loyalties must be awakened, love for some ethical ideal must be kindled, a reverent attitude towards God, and a respectful attitude towards one’s neighbour must be developed. This is all essentially a matter of the spirit, and therefore of religion.

A mere intellectual interest in one’s work as a teacher will not accomplish the hopes of education. It has invariably exhausted itself in criticism, analysis and discussion. Multitudes in our day-schools and church-schools are at this present time becalmed – waiting for some breeze to move them on into a real vital religious experience.

In our day- and church-schools they are waiting for the coming of that inner fire of religious zeal which truly gives life. They will wait in vain unless the teachers bring that zeal to them.

I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet, but I dare to say that within another 40 years … there will arise great Asian teachers – and they will be great because they will have caught the religious fire that came to those early disciples of Jesus. These teachers of the future will have degrees plus something – and that something is directly of God.

A great awakening is due to come to the tens of thousands of boys and girls, young men and young women in our schools. This awakening is a spiritual one, it will not be intellectual; this latter thing is sufficiently with us now.

I further prophecy that science will soon begin to call with increasing earnestness, that religious reality shall answer the problem of the soul, which problem is the key to our very existence. The sceptic, the materialist, the cynic, the atheist and agnostic will have to give way before the yearning demands of the human spirit for satisfaction. Only religious reality as was poured out upon the world at Pentecost can answer such yearning.

Therefore the teacher should be prepared for this awakening. Secular education must soon give way and be absorbed into that far great and final form, namely Religious Education.

The great teachers of Asia in the coming decades will surely be men and women who have feasted their souls in the refreshing springs of Pentecost. Then from our classrooms and churches will pour forth youth with an anchor, with an assurance, with a message of joy and with a hope for all.’ – MM, June 1930, page 7, slightly edited.

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Earnest Lau, the Associate Editor of Methodist Message, is also the Archivist of The Methodist Church in Singapore.