In Mr. Vanden Heuvel’s classroom, names are displayed on the wall. The names identify the students in his Composition 11 classes – a course designed to teach and practice public speaking. The names are expressing who the students choose to be in God’s Kingdom; a testimony of the students’ first speech in the class. Above the collection of names attest to the biblical practices that the students identify as their own. While the students have expressed what they each believe to be their calling, it is the testament of placing their names to each biblical practice that showcases a commitment to living out who they choose to be.

With each speech, the students compose, their commitments are considered before a word is spoken. The students are asked to look to their biblical practice in order to craft the message. With biblical practices of being a servant, glorifying God, enjoying creation, building community, pursuing justice, and others, each student wonders how their biblical practice will influence their speech.

In the students’ most recent speech presentation, each person selected a children’s literature story to present, record, and share with the second-grade classes at Dutton Christian Elementary and Byron Center Christian Elementary. The stories selected were chosen based on the reader’s biblical practice. The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister teaches how to be a servant by giving of yourself, Clark the Toothless Shark by Corinne Mellor advocates social justice to help make someone whole, and Bear Feels Sick by Karma Wilson illustrates building a community to care for those in need. These selected stories and countless more provide an opportunity to practice public speaking while teaching younger generations the importance of biblical practices. At the conclusion of each story, high school students explain and connect the story to their biblical practice: practicing the command in Proverbs 22:6 (“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it”).

Each biblical practice will be practiced in the remaining speeches the students compose. The students will reflect on their biblical practice as they select a topic to inform, persuade, and share. From the upcoming podcast to the final exam speech, each student will not only carefully craft a message that demonstrates strong public speaking skills and techniques but will also deliver a message that is rooted in biblical practices.

With a constant reminder of their commitment written on the wall, the students are able to know that their message is deeply rooted in biblical practices that challenge them to live out who they choose to be.

—Ryan Vanden Heuvel, English Teacher & TfT Lead

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