2013-14: A Reflection on Teaching Bible to Seniors

I have just turned in my final set of grades for the year.  I teach seniors, which means I am usually done a week earlier than the rest of the school.  This has been my second year teaching seniors and it was a completely different experience from last year.  If anyone tells you that all teenagers are virtually the same, call them out as a liar right there.  I thought I could easily connect with high school students based on my seniors last year.  This year I’m starting to question if teenagers might secretly be aliens from a distant planet.  I still haven’t figured out why I was not as successful in connecting with this years group of seniors and I am going to use this blog post to figure it out.

1. The first challenge I face is that I am teaching Biblical doctrine to a spiritually diverse group of students.  Our school does not force you to be a Christian in order to attend, which I think is a very good thing.  However, we require those same students to attend chapel and go through four years of Bible.  This puts both the chaplains and Bible teachers in a very interesting position.  We are trying to engage students who want to go deeper in their faith along with students who have no interest in learning the basics.  I wholeheartedly believe that the gospel and the Christian story are compelling in and of themselves.  This has meant that for me, what I teach does not change based on who is in the classroom.  I think Christians and non-Christians alike will find the story of Jesus compelling and challenging.  This strategy worked last year, it did not work this year.

2. The second challenge I face is the kind of Christianity that is commonly produced in the “Bible Belt” culture.  What passes for Christianity in the South is usually indistinguishable from simply being a good American or in my case a good Texan. I will be presenting a paper on this topic in a few weeks at the Christian Scholars Conference in Nashville, TN.  So the second strategy I implement in the classroom is to get my students to (as Hauerwas puts it): separate the American “we” from the Christian “we.”  This was moderately successful last year and an utter failure this year.

3. At the beginning of the year I always tell my students that we can disagree with each other and still be brother and sister in Christ.  As long as we can disagree in a civil way, I have no problems with it.  In fact, disagreement is necessary in order to produce a semi-decent discussion.  I seek to emphasize that as Christians we need to be humble and willing to be wrong.  One of the comments that I received a lot last year was that I was willing to listen to a different perspective and that I was challenging but not arrogant.  As you might be able to guess, my group of students this year came to different conclusions =).

I am a social teacher.  This means that a lot of my inspiration is drawn from what takes place in the classroom.  The unfortunate thing about being a social teacher is that you never know what you’re going to get in that classroom.  As I reflect back on this year, I have learned a lot about myself as a teacher and as a follower of Jesus.  I think the best goal to set for myself next year, in light of two very different years I have had, is to do my best to reflect the image of Jesus in the classroom.  At the end of the day I simply want my students to love Jesus more than they did before.


(And I guess I still haven’t figured it out even after writing the post….oh well)

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