Monday, January 19, 2009

Planes, Ferries, and Pedagogy

I have been fascinated by the plane-landing on the Hudson river. I am always captivated by stories of survival and every-day heroism. The video of the plane's landing is incredible. I am often put off by the hype of the cable news stations, but in this case have been eating it up. Still, I find the ease with which people throw out the word "miracle" to be very odd. On another note, my mother-in-law had the following amusing conversation with my oldest son yesterday:

Grandma: Did you hear about the plane that lost its engines and was landed in the river? The people got out of the plane and stood on the wings and were rescued by ferries (etc) . . . .

Elijah: Grandma, is that story real?

Grandma: Yes! The pilot was amazing and the people were okay and they got out and were saved by ferries (etc) . . . !

Elijah: Wow, Grandma, so then fairies are real?!?


I appreciated the comments in regard to my last post. Thanks!

I have been reflecting on my teaching experience and am not sure what to say. Here are some different thoughts I had about pedagogy and my own teaching approach.

- It is difficult to know when you are teaching what ought to be taught to this people at this time and when you are just focusing on the stuff that interests you at this time. I think I may have erred somewhat on a few emphases that this class was not quite ready for; did not have the background study for. On the other hand, can it have been wrong to emphasize the incarnation so much in a class called "Humanity, Sin, and Salvation"? Can it have been wrong in this class to push the students to consider not only the individual/personal aspects of salvation but also the corporate/communal?

- By the way, in regard to that last point, it is telling that this class of evangelicals (like me) said frequently that they had never heard this before. Yikes.

- A good teacher really needs a sense of the class and of the school ethos in order to teach in a way that most accurately and helpfully serves the students. I think I went in somewhat prepared to teach a seminary class. I constantly pushed them to deeper thought and told them not to sell themselves short . . . but I wonder now whether perhaps if I were a regular teacher there or could do it again if I'd scale back a bit and spend a bit more time on some of the more traditional discussions that I by now take for granted (such as sanctification, justification, and so on).

- I repeatedly stressed that I was trying to let the life of Christ (including as "pre-existent Word") drive the class agenda. But the truth was that I was kind of going back and forth between a systematic approach and this Christological/Trinitarian one. Certainly these things need not cancel each other out, but that's exactly my point. I'd like to see it done in a more seamless manner. At one point I took the class through a "Hitchhiker's guide to the life of Christ" and tried to connect the different aspects with different discussions we'd be having that week. I wonder what it would look like to make this Hitchhikers guide into the entire structure of the course and to deal with separate technical issues as they came up within that larger discussion

For instance, speaking of "sanctification" under the part about Christ as "ascended Lord" or something like that. Trouble is, you could talk about sanctification under a number of headings. I'm trying to think outside the pedagogical box and wonder whether there is a way to integrate these different approaches to theology, and which approach should lead.

- It is hard to know when to move a discussion on for the sake of getting through the material and when to skip some material in order to dwell on a certain tangent. I think I did okay, and I did get through my material more or less, but I think if I knew the student body better I'd have been readier ahead of time to know exactly those points that needed more discussion. My guess is that many of them would have been points that I myself am not currently as interested in. My guess is that even as a teacher it is one thing to be a servant-teacher and another to be a "genius-professor". In Christian terms I think the former is the preferred goal.

- Teaching is fun. I had very little stress. Either I don't respect the job or the students enough or I've found my calling. Probably a little of both.

- Theology is awesome. Our discussions at various points were moving, interesting, potentially-life-changing. I was convicted, challenged and encouraged at times by "my own" material! It was one thing to study it and gather it and prepare it (collecting the thoughts of others in order to pass them on), but it took on a whole 'nother life when spoken out loud in a room of people. As much as it can be beneficial to research and read on one's own, there is still nothing that matches the group-learning endeavour. We certainly grow and learn and know God in community in a way that is not fully appreciable any other way.


Matthew A. Wilkinson said...

Wow, Grandma, so then fairies are real?!?


Anonymous said...

Your teaching commentary is great. I am really glad that these are the ideas you came out with.

Lindsay said...

Hey Jon, i stumbled onto your blog after being on Eric Ortlund's blog. It was good to have you here at NBC and I appreciate your comments regarding teaching and your time here. I should also mention that Amanda and I share your love for West Wing and I think I have learned how to lead a staff from the show!

Lindsay Anderson