On Receiving Strange Texts in the Classroom

I attended one of my favorite gatherings over the weekend, the biannual Prince Conference Centerconference of the Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning (held at the Prince Conference Center, Calvin College). As an educator, my guild meetings don’t hold a candle to the value-added this conference offers. There is also – and maybe I value this most, even if its hard to put my finger on – an entirely different ethos at Kuyer’s conferences than I find at guild meetings. This is probably why I find excuses to attend and present my work at the Kuyer’s gatherings.

At the guild meetings there is quite a lot of chest-thumping and comparison, and I haven’t walked away from  them feeling all that good about myself. Certainly the fault sits with me for falling prey to it, but guild meetings are rife with status comparison. The temptation to present oneself as successful, productive and on top of one’s game presses hard on me. Frankly, I haven’t seen the best version of myself in that setting.

The good folks at the Kuyer’s Institute create an entirely different environment. Scholars from every academic discipline gather from around the world to pursue together a more robust expression of the Christian imagination in teaching and learning. Attendees and presenters are united by their commitment to teach “Christianly” – and to explore all that it means to say that for our pedagogy, course planning, evaluation, etc. The collaborative atmosphere is refreshing. This year’s conference was no exception. If you have the opportunity to attend – or want an excuse to skip your guild meetings in two years – the next meeting will the first or second week of October, 2017.

I presented a paper on developing empathy for culturally diverse expressions of Christian faith in the classroom. The dialogue which followed was rich and helpful for me as I continue refining my teaching in this area. Here are my final remarks from the paper:

C.S. Lewis suggested that we read in order to see as others see. We read because “We want to see with other eyes” he wrote, “to imagine with other imaginations, to feel with their hearts, as well as with our own…Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do” (An Experiment in Criticism, 137, 41). I challenge my students, Try and receive this portrait of Jesus by seeing Jesus through their eyes. Don’t merely consider the possibility that someone might actually see Jesus that way; attempt to see him that way yourself. The person and their communities who fashioned this portrait look upon the same Jesus as you. Receptivity enabled you to look into their face; hospitality enabled you to receive them into your company; empathy will enable you to see as they see.

Thoughts?

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