The Living Bible in classroom life

Barbara L’s Third Story
Blaga’s Story
Gerlinde’s Story
Heike’s Story
Piia’s Story
Richard W’s Story
Thesi’s Story
Thomas’s Story

Barbara L’s Third Story

As part of GCSE Religious Studies, I was helping students navigate the Tear Fund website. My intention was to investigate different strategies they employed for tackling global poverty. Part way through, one student asked to e-mail the regional organiser. She had obviously been moved by the material and sought out a way to act in response. One thing led to another. With friends, she very swiftly co-ordinated a fund-raising activity and invited the co-ordinator to a whole school assembly during which they presented the cheque. Something had been touched in her that lesson. What I learned was that pupils often need to respond in a more authentic way than the synthetic class-based applications we often orchestrate.

The most important aspect of her learning that day wasn’t planned by me. The process of allowing the response was not ‘convenient’, the event clashed with other things, etc. But I felt that it was vital to clear a ‘space’ and allow it to happen.

We spend a long time praying and trying to create the ethos where responses can take place and then often discourage students by crushing it in some way.

Blaga’s Story

It happened two weeks ago. It was a normal school day – Wednesday. I was having my first class for the day with 5th and 6th grade. We were studying Joseph’s life and the lesson was about the secrets and the influence of our friends. Someone told me that one of the girls had tried to smoke.  I didn’t think it was serious. We had many role games, examples  and a wonderful discussion. The students were very open to share. Sara was the only one who didn’t. I didn’t pay much attention to her. After the class she came to my room and asked me for advice. She seemed to be very scared and simply said “I smoke”.  I was surprised.  Then we decided to see each other later on and we met two hours later. She was more peaceful and shared her deep thoughts and concerns. Smoking was on the surface, of course. It was just a reaction. But we started a very good conversation and I hope it will be for good. It is always amazing how Good uses all situations.

Gerlinde’s Story

We stayed overnight at school with the 11-year-old pupils. Most of us did not sleep during the night so in the morning we all were very tired. I realised that to be so tired makes everybody very weak. I saw some pupils making fun of those who could not stay awake. I saw how differently parents treated their children when they picked them up in the morning: some of them were very kind and merciful to them min their tiredness and weakness while some simply told their children to be hard and strong.

This experience was the subject of our next religion lesson. I divided the pupils part into two groups. Group 1 had to answer the following question: “How should you react when somebody is weak?” Group 2 had to answer following question: “How do people react when someone is weak?” Their answers showed that we all know better than to behave badly towards the weak ones – but we often behave badly. Then we read stories from the four gospels about weak people and how the Bible tells us, “Man`s heart is evil from the beginning”,

From experience and from the gospels we learnt that God is the one to teach and help us to treat people in love who are weak.

Commentary

It is good to use a situation/experience in class to connect it with biblical truth so that we may experience the relevance of God`s word, love and help. It is helpful to remind the children in upcoming situations of what they learned.

Heike’s Story

In year 10 of the Realschule after the written exam in English as a Modern Language, we watched the film “Truman Show” in different parts in English and talked about the setting of the story and what they could find out about Truman’s life. The pupils realised that Truman’s life was based on lies and even his marriage with Meryl was fake. Then we talked about our lives and whether our lives were built on lies as well. The pupils found quite a few lies on which our lives nowadays are built, often things the media say or even their parents. We collected them together on the board.

Commentary

It was important to relate the experiences of their own lives with the teaching topic. It showed them connections of the topic with their lives and it made them think and look at their own lives. It may have helped them to empathise with others. The story shows how different mindsets can interpenetrate and be woven together (daily life, school life, prayer etc.

Piia’s Story

My six-year-old pupils were mainly from a Christian background. They were very familiar with Christian stories and said, “We have heard that many times”. Then we did an art project. We went into a dark room. They had to be silent. In the beginning was nothing but God. I told them, that God made light. They could take the black sheets away from the windows. One black sheet was left. I had a feeling that I should take the last sheet away. No more sign of darkness. They were amazed and touched.

Commentary

They can experience the story - experience rather than words. The element of surprise in it was also important.

Richard W’s Story

In year 8, as part of our Geography curriculum, we study aspects of water including its creational role. During the lesson set aside to consider the place of water in Genesis chapter 1, one of the pupils asked why Genesis chapter 2 was so different to chapter 1. (I knew that some commentators had also raised similar questions but I had never particularly studied the issue and, in seven years of teaching this lesson, this was the first time a pupil has raised such a question). I immediately saw the potential significance of the question and therefore decided to start an in-depth answer. What amazed me was the way that for the next 20 minutes the whole chapter unfurled before the class as I gave an account of how chapter two of Genesis fitted into chapter 21 of Revelation, and that it contained a wonderful type of the plan of salvation from the death of Christ to the church as the bride of Christ. It was one of those special moments when we all felt we had learned something new - none more so than the teacher.

Experiences like this make teaching a great privilege, they also help bond the class together by giving them a sense that they are part of a learning experience that is greater than expected, and for me, and I trust for some of the class, it strengthens their faith in God. I have subsequently used what I have learnt in that lesson in several class assemblies and sermons at church.

Another teaching experience I have had at the opposite end of the spectrum came from watching a film called Dead Poets Society in which a teacher, Robin Williams, using modern exciting teaching techniques, is compared favourably with some very old fashioned and uninspiring teachers. An example is the Latin teacher, who is utterly disinterested in his lesson and gets his pupils to memorise their Latin words by chanting them repetitively with a sort of sing song rhythm. However the surprising thing about this example is how effective that uninspiring method is - both the pupils and myself can remember these Latin words long after we had watched the film.

Commentary

Teachers never stop learning! We are all learning together as we go, and it’s good to share with our pupils that we have just learnt something new. God is constantly teaching us and shaping us. We must be prepared for God to speak to us about something that wasn’t on the lesson plan. God gives us revelations and understanding as we speak. “If you want to learn a subject, teach it!” Use your strengths in your weaknesses.

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater! Some of the older teaching methods actually work! Linguists recognise the value of repetition. Learning a hymn is easier with the music, rather than just teaching the words. We likened this to the underestimated value of learning multiplication by rote and the teaching of phonetics which has come full-circle after the teaching of whole-language learning.

Thesi’s Story

It was during a chemistry class in grade 11. After having explained the pH number countless times – over a period of more than 30 years, I still keep trying to find new, more interesting as well as easier ways to explain it. This time I did not mention the term pH at all in the first place, but wanted the students to find out where our conversation about Ions in pure water may possibly lead to. When we came to the conclusion that practical experiments lead to the fact that water must contain 10-7m H+ Ions, I simply asked whether this number 7 sounded somehow familiar to them, hoping that it would ring a bell and they would recall the pH = 7 of water from their chemistry class in grade 8.

One of the students raised his hand and said, “It is a mystical number in the Bible”. The following ten minutes became a window of opportunities to talk about footprints of the creator in natural science and of sharing of my convictions.

Commentary

We need to be prepared to let go of our preparation so that we can make the most of unexpected situations that arise. Would the student have made the same comment if there had been a non-Christian teacher? We need to learn from our students as they are ‘in God’s image’. Education is both of the children and of ourselves in the process. We need to make students aware of what is and is not science both in terms of theory and data.

Thomas’s Story

It’s very difficult to talk about Jesus in class because it is almost completely forbidden. I can only talk about Christmas and other Christian festivals. A few weeks ago, it was Easter. I talked about the Passion and my children listened closely to what I said. In the story of the resurrection, they heard that Jesus was risen, that Jesus was great with power. When they heard that Christ was risen, they cried in our class. A few minutes later, all the children clapped with their hands because they were so glad and everyone was overwhelmed with this story of what happened and how the Lord is great and He is the Lord of the world.

It is very important to teach and tell stories from the Bible. That is my calling to teach to the children. I was very happy.

Commentary

Students’ questions are vital. We need wisdom and love to make use of the opportunities as they arise, especially when they come from the students themselves. We are professionally responsible for getting or helping children to ask the honest questions. It is all a matter of our pedagogy.