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 June 2017

Cracking Open the Concept of Work

Laziness may appear attractive, but work gives satisfaction (Anne Frank)

A few weeks ago I posted about what the Christian faith might have to say about work.
This week something a little more practical. Here is a basic idea for cracking open the concept of work.

Exploring Quotes

Interesting and challenging quotes could be a great place to start exploring the concept of work. Use a large range of quotes. Print them, cut them out and spread them around the classroom. Ask students to pick one that speaks to them or challenges them or that they disagree with. Have them write a paragraph on the truth the quote is trying to teach.

Here are some quotes to start with but there are plenty more online at places such as:

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
Thomas A. Edison

By working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve hours a day.
Robert Frost

The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.
Vince Lombardi

Work is a necessary evil to be avoided.
Mark Twain

Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.
Theodore Roosevelt

I think the person who takes a job in order to live - that is to say, for the money - has turned himself into a slave.
Joseph Campbell

Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for love of it.
Henry David Thoreau

Laziness may appear attractive, but work gives satisfaction.
Anne Frank

Without work, all life goes rotten. But when work is soulless, life stifles and dies.
Albert Camus

Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.
Booker T. Washington

We work to become, not to acquire.
Elbert Hubbard

There is joy in work. There is no happiness except in the realization that we have accomplished something.
Henry Ford

When a man tells you that he got rich through hard work, ask him: 'Whose?'
Don Marquis

If you don't want to work you have to work to earn enough money so that you won't have to work.
Ogden Nash

I can't imagine anything more worthwhile than doing what I most love. And they pay me for it.
Edgar Winter

Work is not man's punishment. It is his reward and his strength and his pleasure.
George Sand

Teaching was the hardest work I had ever done, and it remains the hardest work I have done to date.
Ann Richards

Work is much more fun than fun.
Noel Coward

Men for the sake of getting a living forget to live.
Margaret Fuller

22 June 2017

The Bible: If it is not in the hand, it is not in the head

Years ago in a discussion about the Montessori approach to education someone told me that the philosophy could be summed up in the idea that: If it is not in the hand, it is not in the head.

This quote, which I thought came from Maria Montessori but which I cannot find the source for, stuck in my head. And it made sense to me. What it meant to me was that unless children play with something, manipulate it with their hands then they are not really learning about it. This is a reductionist view of Montessori but it is reflective of their constructivist view. People need to explore and engage with the world in order to learn. In other words learning is hands on and exploratory.

Reflecting on this idea makes me think about how we approach the Bible with children and young people.

Do we approach it like an Rubik's Cube or a Swarovski Crystal ornament?

On the one hand the Rubik's Cube is played with, twisted, explored, thought about. The better you get the more sides of it you solve. Most people are happy to play with it without ever solving the whole thing but they learn as they go. With some help and understanding they may learn the tricks or approaches to solving larger sections. (I also realise lots of Rubik's Cubes end up in the bottom of the cupboard and this is the point where the analogy breaks down)

On the other hand the Swarovki Crystal is something that sits on the shelf. It is precious and beautiful to look at but it is not something that is touched, played with, manipulated. It might be looked at from time to time but essentially it is forgotten.

 If it is not in the hand, it is not in the head

I think there is a tendency in religious education, especially in primary levels, to present the Bible to children as something of an ornament. We can look at the stories, hear them, but we don't play with them. And by play I mean the freedom to really pull it apart. This is not how we teach children to treat other texts. We encourage them to pull them apart, think about them, reflect on how they make them feel. Have a look at the English section of the Australian Curriculum for example, even in the Foundation Year.

We need to allow children and young people to engage with the Biblical text in a way that gives them permission to explore it, touch it, experience it and play with it. There are all sorts of ways this can happen, again the Australian Curriculum provides some pointers for age appropriate engagement with texts. Practitioners need to find methods that make students want to explore the text with curiosity. Mind you memorising scripture may also be necessary as well.

Some people may feel anxious about this approach. They may fear that it will undermine the message the Bible is trying to communicate. Surely it shouldn't be treated like other books. We may fear this approach might mean young people will not reverence the Bible. The greater risk we run is that young people will not even look at the Bible because like the Crystal they know they are not allowed to touch. As it is we have a great deal of preconceptions to deal with.

If we want the Bible to get into the heads of young people, to be thought about and reflected on, we need to put it firmly into their hands with the freedom to play. In doing this it may not only be in their heads but also in their hearts.

15 June 2017

Zombies and Theology

The Emmanuel Centre for the Study of Science, Religion and Society at the University of Queensland is worth checking out if you teach religious education in Brisbane or beyond. They run regular seminars on all kinds of topics and issues. Like this one:

Zombies and Theology

a seminar with Dr Matthew Tan on Tuesday 27 June, 12 noon to 1.50pm

In this presentation, Dr Tan will interface postmodern pop culture and its technological context with Christian theology. Dr Tan will explore the fascination with the undead, in particular the fascination with zombies, in contemporary culture. The argument put forward is that the zombie is not just another addition to the monster genre. Instead, the zombie is a theologically-inflected embodiment of both the desires and apprehensions of postmodern culture that is, without realising it, striving towards an immanent, technologically enhanced form of immortality by manufacturing a heaven without God.

Interested? Find out more here.

5 June 2017

My Wonderful Opus

I think the person who takes a job in order to live - that is to say, for the money - has turned himself into a slave. - Joseph Campbell

Most schools run programs to help students think about what they might do when they leave school. This is a good thing but I wonder what values and ideas are behind these programs. To be honest I know very little about them. The question I want to ask is: What should Christian schools be teaching students about work? (and here I am talking about what I call "Mission schools", Christian schools where the majority of students are not Christians).

What might Christianity say about work?

Before I go any further though, the big question is: What do you mean by work?

And here's the thing. We shouldn't be talking about 9-5 drudgery, or employment, or getting a job.

We should be exploring something more life affirming. So lets not talk about work but opus.

This term opus is kind of artistic. It usually refers to the creation of works of art on a large scale. I think this is closer to the Christian idea of work than anything else. In Genesis man is placed in the garden to work. He is in God's great creation, God's wonderful artwork to be a participant in shaping it. It is only post fall that work becomes backbreaking drudgery.

In Religious Education our exploration of work should try to crack open the idea that our true work (or opus) isn't necessarily what we do 9-5 but what we do to participate constructively in God's creation. It is using our gifts and talents to make something wonderful with our life. Not selfishly, but selflessly. As an act of service. A wonderful and enjoyable and satisfying act of service. This may not happen 9-5 but there is more to our life than just this.

Can everyone do this? Create a great opus? Yes. It isn't about fame or money or power or any of the other things that we often use to judge life success. It is about contribution, use of gifts, and purpose and meaning in life.It may not be easy but it is wonderful.

So here are two videos that open up the idea that we have a set amount of time to use. How are we going to spend it?  In self torture or on creating a wonderful opus. (I will post something more practical on work and vocation in the RE classroom next week. This week lets just dream of  working joyfully  in God's great garden.

Jelly Bean Time:

How would you really enjoy spending your life?: