Out of this World

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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.

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4 Comments on “Out of this World”

  1. perryshaw Says:

    Thanks Graham. To give meaning to being “in the world but not of the world” necessitates our periodically standing apart from the world so as to encourage seeing the world with God’s eyes. Our classroom methodologies can either help or hinder this process. We do well to give space for silent reflection, and encourage reflection through activities such as case studies and discussion questions that press for dialoguing between text and context. When we talk too much we may well be undermining the whole process of safe space.

  2. perryshaw Says:

    One other observation. As Parker Palmer describes it so aptly “education is a fearful enterprise”. A genuinely safe space can be created only when we honestly address our students’ fears and own fears as instructors. As you have alluded repeatedly in your writings, for the classroom to be a “sanctuary” rather than a “prison” or “battleground” we must exercise hospitality through openness and welcome.

    • Yanti Says:

      I can see that the key factor here is teacher, as the one who can generate class conduct, but the question here is how if teacher is the main problem, I mean how if most of them are not even aware of giving space to their students? or not even aware that there are spaces in learning process.
      Well, maybe this is the condition that I observe in my context …

  3. Drew Says:

    I’m all for the ‘slow food movement’ being applied to education but the pressures of third level study mean that it’s vey dificult to achieve. We can’t simply teach less so should we ‘teach smarter’? Could this mean less information, more skills; less what to think, more how to think?

    I like the idea of the teacher as the host at a banquet but too often we only have time for fast food. I can’t remember where I read recently about evangelism in a local church being all about bringing a nonChristian from being an honoured guest to being a gracious host. Might we say the same thing about theological education?


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