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.

28 April 2016

Religious Education with Girls

I grew up as a happy product of the state education system in Queensland, my first teaching years were spent in the state education system and I began my foray into the Anglican Schools network at a co-ed school. This provided a great background for many aspects of teaching. However, when I first started at a girls-only secondary school, I was completely unprepared for the phenomenon where girls in a girls’ school so completely “own the zone”. Perhaps it exists in just that one lovely school, but I hazard a guess that it exists wherever girls are encouraged to be themselves and to respond freely to challenge and are supported in that process. From beginning to end, this was all about relationship.

Creating genuine relationships with girls in any sort of ministry requires a high degree of honesty and openness, admission of vulnerability and personal sharing. Teaching Religious Education in a girls’ school offers abundant opportunity for developing ongoing positive relationships with students. My experience in those first few weeks as I settled into this new planet showed that girls were amazingly open to discussion and to my initial horror, personal disclosure!!  It was all about the relationship with those teenage girls. They were unrelenting in their need to know about me. I was in their Religious Education classroom, the new teacher on the block, and they wanted to know who I was. In our question sessions, they wanted to know my thoughts on creation, evolution, sexuality, promiscuity, divorce, trouble with parents, trouble with friends, theology!

I was delighted by the relationship building opportunities, but I also realised the need for balance in the relationship between staff and student. Taking this slowly seemed the best idea and so I found several ways of sharing personal stories that allowed me to go slow with the relationship building, get an idea of the culture of the school and the personalities of the individual students in the room. The aim is to honour the need for connection while keeping the distance needed for professionalism.

Some examples:
  • Use storytime with a twist: Work up some personal stories that illustrate a point. Make sure these are stories you are happy to share, and spend time imagining your responses to the most unexpected questions – they will come.
  • Consider bringing in some personal photos from your youth – the worse the fashion, the better for building relationships. Spend time thinking about the event depicted, what you wore, the names of people also in the picture, and what they are doing now. “I was sorting through photos on the weekend and thought you’d get a giggle out of ...”   Ultimately the point of this exercise is to prove that life goes on: Your best friend (the one in the purple jumpsuit in that photo) moved over to Germany to study but you are still close and visit whenever possible, and she, by the way was the one who invented the "tim-tam-slam".
  • Remember phrases your parents used over and over again. “Not dressed like that you don’t!” “Be home by ten or heads will roll!” (or was that only MY parents?) Challenge everyone to come up with 3 of their parents’ faves and offer yours too.
  • Bring a favourite book from your younger days and share snippets each lesson. It doesn’t really matter what the book is, just as long as it resonated with you. Be prepared to discuss why it meant something to you then, and why you still think of it today.
Post written by Fiona Hammond

20 April 2016

AARE National Conference

The Australian Association for Religious Education is holding its biennial National Conference in September this year.

This is the blurb from their site:

The Australian Association for Religious Education (AARE) invites you to its biennial conference for 2016. The theme of the conference is Life, Culture, Belief. The development of the Australian Curriculum provides a unique opportunity to set the framework for the ongoing role that religious education can have for all school students. This conference will offer participants the forum to address this question in its broadest context; from AARE’s traditional base in Independent and Catholic education; to our expanding engagement with inter-religious dialogue; and for the first time, to the role of religious education in Government schools.


God: What does that even mean?

Can we assume students have any idea of the concept of God?

In 2004 Brian V. Hill published Exploring Religion in Schools: A National Priority. One of the things I loved about this book was that it included "An Opinion Finder about Religious Beliefs and Values". The purpose of this three page survey, as the name states, is to discover student beliefs and opinions about religion. If you can get your hands on the book it is well worth looking at the opinion finder, as it is an excellent way of discovering where students are at and how they feel about religion. This can be a helpful way of starting a unit or the year.

This opinion finder activity in itself should shape the way we do religious education. I know the first time I did it I was actually shocked in both good and bad ways.

Teachers generally try not to make assumptions about what they think students already know. I think this is particularly the case in regards to religious education. Over the last few years, however, I have repeatedly heard people suggest that not enough work is done in exploring even the very basic concepts in religious education. The assumptions that are made about student knowledge can turn out to be very wrong.

For example students might be asked on an opinion finder or in class: Do you believe in God? This seems like a very straight forward question, but do students know what we are talking about when we say "God"? The teacher may have their own ideas about what they mean, but does the student share them? Are the two on the same page or talking about something completely different? Before the question can be asked, work must be done on exploring what exactly students are being asked to affirm or deny. Many young people today grow up in households where the very concept of God is not discussed or developed.

I wonder are there other concepts in religious education that teachers might take as assumed knowledge but students have very different or no ideas about.

7 April 2016

What if learning

"What if learning about flowers led to wonder?" This is one of the opening questions on the "What If Learning" website and it is a site well worth exploring not just for religious educators but for all Christian teachers who hope to bring their faith into the classroom in an open and refreshing way.

Their approach uses three strategies - seeing anew, choosing engagement and reshaping practice. Each of their strategies is backed up by many many examples.

Some of my favourites included:

Example #76 Chemistry and Wonder (What if there were moments of wonder in chemistry?)

Example #4 Art and Hospitality (What if students could learn respect through art?)

Example # 9 Writing about others (What if students could learn love and self control through writing?)

The ideas and examples are very  gentle but at the same time have the potential to engage students deeply on an intellectual and spiritual level.