41 students from 12 countries. I’ve met my 10th grade English class now. I know their names and have been politely instructed in the Russian pronunciation of “Michael.” (“My name is pronounced Me-Ha-el. Me as in myself, then ha as Ha! I caught you! and el as in just the letter L.”) I’ve canvassed them on their reading habits in order to recommend books to them. (One said he would read just about anything but Harry Potter, and another said she was planning to finish the Harry Potter series.) And I’ve collected a narrative essay related to something they are good at or enjoy (from soccer to scuba diving to online gaming to digital art).
The students’ relationship to Christianity is as varied as their reading habits and hobbies, and I figured that after a couple of days of telling my Christian perspective, which would shape how I taught all year, it behooved me to inquire about my audience’s faith perspective. So I asked them to respond to the following journal question:
We all have a perspective that is shaped by many things including (but not limited to) gender, age, ethnicity/nationality, socio-economic status, education, experiences, and faith. Because perspective always shapes communication, we will communicate most effectively if we can make our biases explicit. With this in mind, identify and articulate your faith perspective and what effect that has on your participation in the learning community that is CAJ's English 10 class.
1. How would you identify your faith--by religion, by level of knowledge, by level of commitment, by level of how that affects your life?
2. If you did not identify as Christian, what is your perspective of Christianity?
3. How do you see this shaping your involvement in English 10 this year?
The candidness with which most students responded leaves me in a sort of awe at my opportunity to walk with them through English class this year. While most are Christian, some are not, and some are uncertain. And even within those categories, there are as many shades as there are students.
There are students who are...
- from Christian and from nonChristian families.
- well-versed in Bible knowledge, and have no Bible knowledge.
- thoughtful and articulate about their world view, whatever it is, or have little to say.
Of students who are Christian, there are those who are...
- passionate about their faith and looking to grow.
- lukewarm in their faith and dissatisfied with this.
- Christian in name and admit it has little effect on their lives.
- struggling to live their faith in Japanese society.
Of students who are not Christian, there are those who...
- are thoughtful, articulate atheists and agnostics.
- are respectful of Christianity and interested in understanding other views.
- admire the dedication and service of Christians.
- are wary of conflicts escalated by religion.
Of students in the gray area, there are those...
- from Christian families who are rethinking the faith they’ve inherited.
- from nonChristian families who accept many tenets of Christian faith, but don’t yet see themselves as ready to name themselves Christian.
I love teaching English for the opportunity it gives us to grapple with world view questions, and I hope the class’s discussions and writing will continue to be as honest, searching, and respectful. And I hope that at the end of the year all students will have a clearer understanding of a Christian world view and of their own world view, should that differ.
Why do I have these hopes for English class? I believe that
- Because people are made in the image of God, we are creative, communicative truth-seekers. Literature is how authors creatively communicate the truth they have sought. As we read, think, write, discuss, and present, we also exercise our imageness in similar ways.
- As we read literature, we can see how authors have celebrated the beauty and struggled with the brokenness of God’s creation--whether they articulate it that way or not--and we respond by ourselves actively engaging in the celebration and the struggle.
- As we understand our fellow human beings’ perspectives--authors, characters, classmates--we are better able to love our neighbors who also bear the image of the God we love, who are loved by him, and who he commands us to love.