Welcome to the coloured glass classroom! We hope to provide you with lots of creative ideas and resource links to help you engage the young people in your religious and Christian education classes. This blog is sponsored by the Anglican Schools Commission of the Anglican Church Southern Queensland.

20 June 2018

Wisdom From Stories - A Powerful Way to Teach

Here is a fabulous story to share with your students whether you are a teacher or a Chaplain. I first read this on a brilliant blog by Fr Philip Chircop, called Wisdom Stories to Live By

This would be fabulous as part of a sermon, or indeed, a lesson for Religious Education. You could easily link this to your Character Education focus as well. It is filled with teachable moments and great wisdom.

"Once upon a time, a Russian peasant went to visit Moscow, the big city. He arrived at its fanciest hotel. His boots were covered with mud, his clothing was torn, and his appearance was dishevelled. Despite all this, the clerk at the hotel smiled at him. He gave the peasant a key to his room, the highest and most elegant room in the hotel. The peasant began walking up the hotel’s beautiful winding staircase.

When he arrived at the first floor, he walked right in front of a full-length mirror. He had never seen a mirror before, and he was terrified because it contained a beastly image staring back at him. He growled and shouted at the beast but found it did the same right back to him. He screamed and ran up the next set of stairs. On the second floor, he ran into the beast again. He screamed, and the beast screamed back at him. Once again he ran up the stairs, to the third floor. The beast stared right back at him. They exchanged insults and stood toe to toe.

Realising he could not escape, the peasant ran back down to the lobby. He went back to the clerk at the desk. He told the clerk about the beast stalking him. The clerk quickly realised the man was seeing his own reflection in the mirror. Rather than embarrass or shame him, the clerk told the peasant that the strange-looking man was there to protect the hotel’s guests.

“Here’s the trick,” the clerk says. “If you make an angry face at him, he will do the same to you. But if you greet him with a smile and kind words, he will do the same to you.” The peasant thanked the clerk and went up to his room. He had no more terrifying stops."

Fr Philip suggests the following in his ‘Consider This’ comments. This is so helpful if you wish to have a deeper discussion of the story.

The clerk could have responded differently. He could have taken advantage of the peasant’s vulnerability and ignorance. He could have laughed at him. He could have called him names. He could have scolded him or showed him the way out. But for this clerk, another person’s humanity was more important than a smug sense of superiority. Another person’s need gave the clerk an opportunity for kindness.

Remember: Life is like an echo. Whatever energies you send out, they will be echoed back to you. What you give away is what you will receive.  Or as scripture says:
  • “The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” —2 Corinthians 9:6
  • “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.” —Galatians 6:7
I wonder if anyone in your class has ever made a mistake and been laughed at?

Is it better to be right or kind? Let your class decide.

31 May 2018

National Reconciliation Week 2018 Videos

The RAP group in the Anglican Church Southern Queensland have created a number of videos sharing stories of reconciliation action. Check them out here.

24 May 2018

Dust Echoes: Ancient Stories, New Voices

Dust Echoes "is a series of twelve beautifully animated dreamtime stories from Central Arnhem Land, telling stories of love, loyalty, duty to country and aboriginal custom and law."

There is a study guide for each of the videos. The videos themselves can be accessed on the website but some also appear on Youtube.

These videos and resources would be useful in exploring Aboriginal religion and spirituality or even considering values and the way they are expressed in story.

10 May 2018

Meeting the kinder version of yourself

Do you remember those BUPA ads from a few years ago that had the tag line: What would you do if you met a healthier version of yourself (see vid below). I always thought these ads were clever for the thought experiment that they invited us to participate in. How might the decisions we make now and the habits we engage in every day lead us to a particular version of our self?

Recently on the internet I saw this: ”Somebody once told me the definition of hell: On your last day on earth, the person you became will meet the person you could have become.

I think this is also an interesting thought experiment. It made me think about what version of myself  would make me disappointed in the person I had become. Would it be someone who was more moral than me, more successful, kinder? Maybe. But I wonder what other compromises this version of myself might have made?

Would it be hell if I met an incredibly moral version of myself but they were homeless. Or what if I met a super successful mega wealthy version of myself but they were morally repugnant.

I think this idea of meeting future versions of yourself might be a useful thought experiment for the RE classroom. It could really get students thinking about the type of person they want to become and the choices they might make in order to become this person. They could also think about the things that might cause them to make compromises.

I wouldn't spend too much time dwelling on the idea that we might be disappointed by the person we might become. It would be worth reflecting on how we might make peace with our past as we go through life and come to a point of accepting who we are.

Of course all of this can be connected with scripture in creative ways. Themes might include repentance, redemption, forgiveness, new life. The story of the rich young man could be used here. What if he met the version of himself who followed Jesus and didn't walk away.

24 April 2018

Forgiveness, Gratitude, Kindness, Joy, Compassion and More!

You are keen to teach your students about the important things in life, such as kindness and compassion, but you need a great way to introduce your lessons. 

A fabulous Religious Educator and local school Chaplain, Stephanie, told me about this great website a few years ago and my students and I have enjoyed using it ever since. I think the new format makes it even easier to use and it is great for all sorts of learning – not just Religious Education. Take time to discover Go Noodle. You will need to create a free account first. It is easy, even for a noodle head like me.

Once you are in the site, try starting your day with Be Grateful.
Another favourite is Forgive Others.
And remember - kindness grows kindness! Be Kind.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I forget about brilliant resources and so it is good to be reminded of the really fabulous websites that can brighten our day. 

5 April 2018

Neuroscience Meets Miracles and How to Walk on Water!

I had the absolute joy of attending the Pearson Mind Brain Conference in Brisbane. Oh my stars! It was brilliant. All the speakers were outstanding but I was particularly fascinated by Dr Judy Willis. Dr Willis is a neurologist who was concerned about children in schools and their learning and behaviour, and so she retrained and became a teacher! She is fabulous.

Dr Willis focussed on using neuroscience to develop effective teaching strategies and optimising students’ learning.

Dr Willis suggests that when preparing lessons, teachers should respond to the current neuroscience research and this means:-
1. Novelty moments – unexpected, interesting activities
2. Stress free environment – a warm, caring, kind environment, reducing sources of anxiety
3. Pleasurable experiences – enjoyable, relevant

Teaching a Unit on Miracles - Believing the Unbelievable gives us such scope to use neuroscience, but the basic tools and strategies based on the work of Dr Judy Willis can be applied to any subject or topic.  As Dr Judy Willis explains, when classroom activities are pleasurable, the brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that stimulates the memory centres and promotes the release of acetylcholinem, which increases focused attention.

In addition, to optimise learning, add a little of the unexpected to your lessons. We all love some surprises. Neuroscience teaches us that the brain responds to the unexpected and the curious. When we introduce something unexpected we get the attention of the brain. 

Watching videos is a great way to respond to neuroscience. It may form part of a brain break and so the students feel enjoyment. When the students are not feeling stressed they are better able to engage and learn. Enjoying fun movies fosters a positive climate and allows students to think more deeply. In addition, the research tell us that students will retain more when learning is linked to strong emotions, like joy.

If you are keen to use the brain research, it can be great to start your lessons with a whole range of challenges where the children have to guess if statements are True or False. Have some pictures or video clips to back up your answers. Be creative.
For example – True or False.
o One man can pull a Boeing 767 
o Kangaroos can walk backwards
o Apples can float
o There is a yoyo that dates back to 500BC

Watching ‘People Are Awesome’ is a great way to introduce miracles. It is also a way to bring joy, fun and the unexpected to your classroom. Look out for the man who ‘runs on water’.

So, if for example you choose to teach your class the miracle story of Jesus walking on water, I have quite a few favourite videos. However, before you show them something fabulous like God's Story:Peter, grab their brain attention with something like these videos.

When in doubt about finding a suitable video – and it can be tricky at times – two of my favourite presenters are Richard Hammond and Steve Spangler. However, always watch each video thoroughly yourself to check if the video is appropriate for your students.

Funny, interesting and relevant videos can help you respond to neuroscience. Your students will certainly appreciate your efforts. Have fun. One last tip - don't try this at home!!

21 March 2018

Jesus Christ Could Have Been Ugly

Well – at least that is the headline on the 12 March from the Daily Star in the UK.

This controversial idea has been suggested by Professor Joan Taylor of King’s College in London. The general idea is that Jesus may have been rather ordinary looking, hence the lack of descriptions in the Bible.

This could be a fabulous place to begin a discussion on the historical Jesus with your students or indeed an opportunity to introduce an exploration into our identity in Christ.

It is also a fabulous way to look at religious art through the ages. Two great websites with plenty of resources are:-

1. Rejesus.co.uk – Faces of Jesus

Perhaps finish off your Unit or lessons with this great activity. Let your students draw or paint their own depiction of Jesus. They can look to the internet for inspiration. Try using these time lapse drawings to help them. There are many to choose from. Find something that will engage your students and let them create.