Saturday, January 21, 2017

Teaching General Education Courses

I’ve come to enjoy maturing into how I teach “Gen. Ed.” (General Education) courses for the University. 

This involves “Intro” Introduction courses to subject areas.  Primarily for me this means the course I most routinely teach titled “Old Testament Literature and Life.”  (On occasion I’ll teach New Testament Literature and Life and I’ve taught Christian Faith and Life too – all required for learners at my Christian University.  Note the progression of titles to courses – and the idea that the Christian Life emerges from the study of the both Testaments.)

General Education courses are, in some ways, the easiest courses to teach - while also being the hardest courses to teach. 

The courses are easy to teach as they cannot go into “enough depth” to “really” get into the issues of any particular book of the Bible.  There is not enough time to engage with depth the wellspring of data in many passages in every book of the Bible, let alone the breadth and scope of “critical” studies that engage all of the archaeology, textual history, cultural awareness and the like. 

Winsome. That is what I want most for the Intro Courses that I teach.  Attractive. Open. Charming. Winning. Sweet. Approachable. Delightful.

I want the courses to be appealing and interesting, engaging and deliberate.  I want the reading to be challenging and comprehensive, without being extraneous or overboard.  I certainly do not want the course to be boring or dull, tedious or tendentious. 

I’ve told learners that I teach, and pastors that I am training that I never use the phrase and do not buy into the idea of “being the Devil’s advocate.”  However one might interpret that as a simple expression, the notion of it embraces that idea that someone is partnering in league with the most diabolical force in the world for the sake of causing discursive frustration. I am not for that, ever. 

While I am open to engage multiple ideas and pathways for interpretation, I always seek to insure  for myself and with learners the perspective of the faith tradition.   I embrace my Christian identity, following Jesus as revealed in Scripture, as God is fully revealed in the entire testimony of Scripture.  For me, this has included the Church of the Nazarene and positions I hold within the Church of the Nazarene, though it has not limited my study of other perspectives within Christianity, nor other religious traditions, nor other social-political ways of thinking.    

I did not teach a General Education Introduction course in the last semester so I had a nice “break."

As I prepare for the first day and first weeks of Old Testament Literature and Life to begin in a few days, I’m excited. 

I’ve only made a few minor revisions to the planned course course work for this new semester.  We’ll be using the same textbook that has been the intentional choice of our entire department, Discovering the Bible, published by our Denominational publisher, and thus fully consistent with our theological perspectives.  It’s a good text.  [No “Intro” textbook is perfect, as I might note in another blog entry later.] 

As I head into this new semester, I’m excited to have another opportunity to “refine my skill” at teaching.  I plan to do the best I can at the basic features – showing up on time and being available to learners during the class hour and outside of class.  Some of the learners in my class will have no familiarity with the Bible. 

I hope to invite them to see the God Scripture and the people of God in Scripture to be “persons” they can “relate to” and discern for understanding their personal life journey.  I will introduce non-acquainted students and those who have had years of “Sunday School” and home-family Bible teaching to explore together key themes in the story of Scripture – primarily an emphasis I see that ties the Exodus, Exile and Easter together in the reality of Becoming Priestly Kingdom and Holy Nation, partnering in the work of announcing the reality that the  Kingdom of God is now available (particular passages in Exodus and Matthew frame this idea for me, though I believe the ideas permeate passages across the Canon of Scripture). 

I will do my best to be honest with Scripture, authentic with what I understand God’s work to have been in Scripture and in my own experience.  We’ll have time to talk about what we can “know for certain” about the historical tradition of Scripture while talking about how Scripture (and the God of  Scripture) has shaped the experience of many believers over more than three millennia. 

My hope is that if the course content, reading, library research work, group study, creative engagement coheres, each learner will end the course with a greater sense of their own identity in the larger purpose of God’s faithful work in the world which continues to involve us. 

My personal prayer – and prayer for my family – has long been:  “Lord, help us to be people who are faithful and honest, kind and true, gracious and generous, people who reflect and embody the life of God’s Kingdom.”  I hope the work of teaching the “Intro” course will welcome people into the potential that they might reflect and embody the ideal of God’s Kingdom individually and collectively, for the sake of all Creation.

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