Clapham Christian Classical School

Clapham Journal

Deep Wit: The Fruit of Clapham’s Model

By Elise Redfield, Class Four Teacher

DEEP WIT: THE FRUIT OF CLAPHAM’S MODEL“Vex not thou the poet’s mind / With thy shallow wit,” says the poet, Alfred Tennyson. As a fellow learner with my students, I would add: do not vex them with the inanities that we wish to put into their minds.


Deep Wit


The calling of students is something that has been on my heart since I was young. The most influential people in my life were not those who “made learning fun,” but those who called me to a higher standard. One such individual was my youth pastor who believed we could learn theology, and thus we vigorously pursued the meaning of concepts like the hypostatic union.


I have seen this same vigor in the classroom when we discuss the rich ideas of literature. My class is currently reading a book about a boy in the Civil War who goes to live with extended family after his parents and siblings die. This new family does not share his ideas of right and wrong; black and white.  He discovers that there are shades of gray in many areas of life.


What a rich discussion ensued from this idea! It made me think: do I, as a teacher, get up and perform for my students, or ask them trivia questions that have little or nothing to do with higher level thinking? Although this may be a temptation in other learning environments, this kind of shallow wit would only serve to vex and be, as Charlotte Mason suggests, an avenue “for boredom, and the children’s minds [will] sicken and perish long before their school days come to an end.” This avenue would no sooner produce fruitful ideas than a fig tree could produce oranges.


It is my responsibility to keep myself from becoming the center of the classroom and instead ask questions that will, indeed, produce fruit after its own kind. Rich questions and avenues of discussion are just the thing needed to shape learners after God’s mind and heart.


Amidst discussing the methods used at our school with someone, I was struck by how we are counter-cultural. “What do they find fun at your school?” this person asked me. In the moment, I replied that the question was not what they find “fun,” but what will truly bring them lasting joy. After discussion, I further realized that “shallow wit” would probably be found fun in the moment for the student. This reminded me that my desire should be for students to find pleasure in eternal concepts; concepts that will produce after their kind with little or no help from me.


Many have been my lessons in teaching so far this year. The students’ capability has struck me the most and stands out as a reminder every time fellow learners in class use words such as “loquacious,” “stupendous,” or “irreconcilable.” It reminds me of their pursuit of deep wit for which their small spirits long. This longing for ideas demands hard work and enjoyment, but brings back return for years to come.


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