Powerful opportunities – teachable moments – as teachers and administrators we crave these times when it seems every student’s eye, ear, and heart is hyper tuned to the subject at hand. However sometimes we find ourselves in circumstances we would never hope for, yet provide teachable moments that will never be forgotten: such as the stories of classroom prayer times on the day of 9/11. I will never forget the response of prayer by my teachers in my childhood days following the assassination of national leaders and the sudden tragic death of a fellow student’s father in an accident. These are times when our words and actions are extraordinarily important in terms of how we reveal our own faith and shape the faith of those for whom we are responsible. It is our responsibility to make sure that we are equipped and ready for these situations of life difficulty whenever they may emerge with students.
Sometimes it is almost easier to know how to respond to a life difficulty, such as pain or loss. Dilemmas are more problematic because we are making choices between potentially unpleasant outcomes. Dilemmas also reveal our character and belief systems, leaving us open to criticism by those who judge our decisions and actions. We need to teach students how to make tough decisions when faced with dilemmas – what will be the guiding principles for them on which to base their decision? As Christians we believe the Bible is that source of truth for discernment.
But what about when Christians disagree? Are we teaching students how to be graceful in this disagreement of interpretation? As we know from history Christianity has been more harmed by human certitude than honoring of differences – but where and how do we teach students to draw some lines in the sand? I think that humility demands that we be less dogmatic where we run into issues with shades of gray, but I certainly hope that we will not shy away from discussion of dilemmas with our students. We may not be able to arrive at the “right” answer, but in the process we will be teaching them how to wrestle with authentic issues in a way that honors God and neighbor – and serves to enhance their own faith development. At the end of the day our wrestling must reflect the certain hope we embrace – Christ has come and his kingdom is coming in all its fullness.
*(For an explanation and definition of Faith Enhancing Practices see my post of February 3, 2007 entitled “What’s the difference between teachers?”) If you are interested in seeing all 12 Faith Enhancing Practices modules at once, you can go to the Member Community Center and access them there.