“What is an educated person? Do we need to attend school to be an educated person?” These questions were what we discussed in our Socratic Dialogue. Just like any Socratic seminar, our group never really reached at a final answer but with more deepening questions. As I reflected on the experience, I realized that this process of thinking could have implications that go beyond classroom.
In the process of going through the questions, it was difficult to stay on topic because the seminar needed to be based on points provided in the text by Alfie Kohn. Asking the first few questions were effortful and calculated but they were helpful to start the ball rolling. Once the right questions were being asked, the insights started pouring in and we ventured into a quest that lead to more doors, more forked roads, more ledges to jump.
Overall, it was an enlightening experience which I would love to imitate in my class. However, upon reflection, I wondered: Is being an effective educator about being able to ask the right questions? Can these questions, instead of being asked verbally, be experienced? Can experiences be captured in questions? How do we ask questions that rock the very foundations of people that it leaves them hungry to take action?
One of the difficulties that I experience as a Christian Living Education teacher is that students (and parents) don’t take the subject seriously and often find it a nuisance. Some would even go as far as saying that they find the subject irrelevant because they either do not practice this particular faith or they claim to be people who have no religion. Thus, an extra effort is needed to deliver the lessons and capture the interests of students. So far, the most effective way for me to do that is to ask numerous and relevant questions.
In my efforts to get the interest of the students into the subject, on the very first day I simulated a lecture that a previous Philosophy professor did one time:
“What if one day, one morning, you wake up and realize that GOD DOES NOT EXIST, will anything CHANGE in your life?” the teacher asked. A few students were clearly stunned with the question. Others say that something will change but a large portion of the class admitted that NOTHING would change in their lives. The teacher continues, “What if one day, one morning, you wake up and realize that your Mom passed away? Or your Dad passed away? Or BOTH passed away? Will anything change?” Students reacted loudly saying that, yes, something will definitely change.
“If that is that case, how come when I asked if God doesn’t exist, nothing will change in you?”
Classroom falls silent.
“Does this mean that God does not matter to you? And we claim to be Catholics? We claim to be Christians? We claim to be studying in a Catholic, Jesuit school?”
Classroom remains quiet. The teacher continues.
“If you felt nothing when I asked what would happen if God did not exist, it’s O.K. This is the point of CLE: To make sure that that question becomes relevant. Hopefully at the end of the year, when I ask the question again, something will change. It will matter.”
Although that was not a Socratic seminar, it sure got the students thinking—which, I think, is the ultimate purpose of a Socratic seminar. This led me to the realization that maybe the Socratic seminar goes beyond academics and is not just a strategy used in class; it’s a lifestyle as well. For some people, they focus more on the certainty of answers. For others, they they insist that there are no absolutes or true answers to things and would resort to the questions. For a few people, however, they find peace in uncertainty.
As an educator and formator of a Religion subject, it’s my task to help deepen my students’ faith. Some people might find this method brutal or unbecoming of a CLE teacher because I made them question their faith. Especially in more conservative societies, questioning authority was tantamount to persecution, lack or propriety, or even death (in Jesus’ case, at least). How can it be called AUTHENTIC FAITH when it has never been shaken, it has never been questioned? Isn’t faith about being comfortable in UNCERTAINTY? Isn’t faith about learning to trust the one guiding regardless if the guide knows where he/she is going? I don’t think there could be any real learning in Christian Living Education if students are not made to question something that’s so fundamental as their faith, because the true assessment for this subject lies outside the classroom.
One of the reasons why the subject I’m teaching is titled as such is because it was never meant to be just an academic subject, it’s a way of living—Christian way of living. Because it is a lifestyle, faith needs to be exercised for it to bear fruit. One way of exercising faith is by posing relevant and taboo questions as essential questions in the classroom. That way we can somehow simulate their faith experiences outside of the classroom.
In conclusion, maybe an effective educator has the capability to ask the right questions and provide the appropriate material to simulate common experiences met outside the classroom. This strategy is not only meant to capture the interests of the students, but is meant to be applied to enrich the students’ context, prompting him/her that learning is rewarding and it is not separate from academics.
In the end, probably an effective educator is someone who is more than just a teacher, but a personification of the subject itself and who the skills necessary to succeed in the subject. In other words, maybe an effective educator is someone who “walks the talk.” In this case, for me to be an effective CLE educator, I need to know how to ask the right questions by going through varied faith experiences. Is this very ideal? Of course because what real educating are we doing if we don’t strive to attain a certain ideal? Is this feasible? Of course. Will this method of educating work? I don’t know, and maybe that’s the point. I guess, we can say that we can leave it up to faith and hope that whatever we have prepared, are preparing, and will prepare will benefit the persons inside the classrooms.
Maybe we were never meant to be comfortable with the sure answers, but learn to live in a creative tension of finding peace in uncertainty.
‘Til my next blog!
Image taken from: http://pinterest.com/pin/250512797992604546/