Out of this world
Christians, rather simplistically, are advised to be “in the world but not of the world”. Our classrooms are to be neither. I would like to propose the classroom as a sanctuary from the world.
Student and staff generally live lives patterned by stress. This varies between persons but few in this complex busy world are free from tensions. They may be tensions arising from relationships, money, lack of time, pressures put on the students, not least by our assessment systems. But when students gather in the classroom, they are in a refuge for a while where other things can occupy their churning minds. They have the chance of a significant thought life for a while.
Students and staff also generally live lives dominated by the mundane. There are buses to catch, dogs to walk, breakfast to make, the cash machine to visit, cheese to buy, clothes to wash, the car to take to the garage and birthday presents to buy. The classroom is a welcome escape from the ordinary, the mundane, into the realm of big ideas, great calls to arms, passionate truths.
In the classroom we also finally and gratefully have time to think about ourselves and God. Often even the church services we attend do not give us this space, let alone the everyday round of things to be done. Even our private devotional times are often a rush. But now, in the classroom, whether it be from a text, from a doctrine, from a piece of church history, we can contemplate ourselves and God in all seriousness and the slowness we need, with some guidance from one who has done this before.
And then we can bring back the world, but on better terms, on our terms. We can see it from the standpoint of the important, as God sees it and how we as children of God and serious human beings can see it, if only given the space and time to get our vision right. This will lead to a better engagement with the world – one born out of Christian seriousness rather than out of time pressures, one born out of the great issues of the faith rather than immersion in the ordinary.
Not an easy thing to teach like that, but maybe the most important thing we can do as teachers is shut the classroom door.