Interview with a history teacher from an Orthodox school

It takes a lot of imagination to be a teacher

October 28, 2020

Alexander Churbakov teacher of historyAlexander Churbakov with his pupils

How has teaching at the Convent's school benefited you spiritually and professionally?

Working at the Convent's school is one of the great blessings in my life that God has shed so generously on me. By working here, I am growing spiritually and making progress as a Christian. I can also support my family.

I value greatly the atmosphere at the school. I was impressed by the cordial and heartfelt welcome with which I was met. The students met me very well and accepted me immediately simply because I was their new teacher.

I cherish the spirit of love for the neighbour and genuine faith that reigns at the school. It is the spirit of a Christian family. For a child, experiencing the Christian love and Christian way of life will no doubt have a deep positive effect for the rest of their lives.

Being called a teacher by the gift of God is perhaps one of the greatest acknowledgements of a teacher's achievement. What does being a teacher by the gift of God mean to you? How would you describe the calling of such a teacher?

In his writings, one father of the Western church referred to the Lord as the ultimate teacher, who guides the people - his students - towards salvation. In my opinion, anyone who is a teacher by the gift of God should work towards helping his students to find God, as this will likely be their greatest accomplishment in life, more important than any worldly award or acclaim.

I am working in a strong team of like-minded people. All of us are striving to the best of their ability to help their students grow spiritually and professionally, to live in agreement with the moral teachings of the Lord.

Alexander Churbakov

How can the study of history help bring children closer to the Lord?

In our history lessons, we reflect a lot on the reasons for the demise of the worldly kingdoms and states, and we notice the presence of God in the fortunes of many of them. For example, as we study ancient history with the fifth graders, we notice the relatively short life span of most ancient civilisations. We learn about the religions in Ancient Egypt or Phynicia, and we see that their inhabitants were practising Paganism, sometimes in some very extreme ways. We discover the connections between this and their demise.

What are you doing to make history an engaging, interesting, and exciting subject to your students?

Being a teacher takes a lot of imagination. In my work, one never stops experimenting to look for the best approach to presenting the material in the most impressive and thought-provoking way.

No child is the same; some enjoy history a lot, others do not like it. So I practise different ways of teaching history. To some history is more like a documentary drama, to others its is like an action-packed story. One can build upon these preferences to make the lessons more interesting and exciting. I also make a point of engaging every student by challenging them with the question, “what would you have done in those circumstances?”

Alexander Churbakov

One of the subjects that you have taught at the Convent’s school is called "Foundations of the Orthodox Culture". What was your approach to teaching it?

Most students at the Ichthys school grow up in Christian families. They are regular churchgoers, thee partake of the Holy Sacraments. The most important message that I bring to every student is the importance of having a personal relationship with God in all situations and circumstances. This should be a living relationship, like the one we have with our friends or parents. Having this kind of relationship with the Lord is a great achievement. In my lessons, I let the children discover the living God and keep their faith alive. This is a task that is both ambitious and challenging in many ways. But so is the life of any Christian.

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