Kissing and theological education


Kissing and theological education

At first sight, these two pleasurable activities do not seem to have anything in common so let me say first what I am not trying to say. The management mantra KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) is of little use when you try to apply it to such a complicated task as theological education, except in a very reductionist way. Nor do I wish to fall into the contemporary trap of using sentimental or even romantic language to describe our relationship with God. So, what do I mean?

The Poet Robert Bridges speaks of a kiss as “passion with peace” – and anyone who has had a loved one in their arms knows exactly what he means when he talks of this strange combination of feelings.

Not that we encounter either of these, that often, in the classroom. However together, just as they best describe a good kiss, so they also describe good teaching. Am I pressing the analogy too far? Maybe a little tongue-in-cheek? I don’t think so. They are the two things students recognise quickly and to which they most enthusiastically respond.

Passion for the subject is well documented as a key component of teaching which produces good learning. It makes possible, even inevitable, the interest of the class. And almost always some of the passion for the subject rubs off on the students.

Peace? Yes, certainly. It is the sense that you, the teacher, are there where you should be, at peace with yourself and the students – that you don’t fear the students or their questions but you are peacefully open them. Even that you are having a good time. This is a key pre-condition for student engagement and enjoyment.

If I was to give two fundamental reasons why teaching doesn’t work, they would be a lack of passion for the subject and a lack of peace in the teacher.

Now, all this is a far cry from the crude measurement of the feedback forms we usually use at the end of a module. These assess the quality of our notes, our timekeeping, how comprehensively we cover the subject, our use of visual aids (even if they are more of an impediment than of use) and so on. They generally miss all the important things which make teaching outstanding – a bit like a kiss reported on afterwards using a feedback form!

In this new year of 2013, maybe we can all look for more “passion with peace” in our lives as well as our teaching.

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6 Comments on “Kissing and theological education”

  1. Perry Shaw Says:

    I love it, Graham! Mind you, “love” is a word that frequently appears in the literature on excellence in teaching – love for students, love for subject, love for teaching – and so the analogy of kissing is not so far wrong. May God grant all of us teachers a great passion for the ministry of theological education throughout 2013 and beyond.

  2. Editor Says:

    Great post Graham. Was the “tongue-in-cheek” a pun when you were speaking of a good kiss? If so, brilliantly nuanced 🙂


    • I have no idea what you are talking about. Actually, I had drawn attention to this in a previous draft, with an exclamation mark but realised that then I would not be able to deny the pun element if challenged.
      65 hits on this post from Singapore today. They must do a lot of kissing over there.
      Thanks for the encouragement,

  3. Donald Wayne Dickman Says:

    Thanks Graham. Great truth on teaching with passion and having peace. Since we got Buffalo Theology, Mango and Banana Theology, maybe should name this as Theology of Kissology.
    Blessings to you.

    To blessed by your insight.

    Donald Wayne Dickman

  4. beth barnett Says:

    late to the conversation, I know, but a brilliant analogy that I think can be pressed further.

    I’m especially inspired by role of intuition in assessing appropriate application intensity/duration etc…in education. In some quarters the posture of objective distance is peddled as pedagogically necessary.
    The subtle, sensitive adjustments and interpersonal negotiations between the actants in education (under the rough labels of teacher, student, content, methodology, resources, structures, etc…) however, is always fluid, always in play, and I think, requires more collective and individual attention.

    nevertheless, a question from a beginner in the blocks: how do you unlock the kiss/passion/peace image from the individualism we normally associate with kissing (even formal kisses of greeting, not just those of lovers) in the context of collaborative educational endeavours?

  5. pcookey Says:

    I guess that the kiss analogy be not limited to just “passion and peace”. The characteristic of KISS includes giving and submission. These aspects I also see in my teaching experience as necessary to show how commitment to God and those we serve. As we give ourselves and all that we can give we KISS sincerely and as we submit even to Christ and our students we earn their respect and submission! I appraise the write-up and hope we can discern more of the qualities of the KISS analogy to better our theological teaching. Shalom!

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